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14-50 



"Beautifully translated and. arranged 
. . . will give great joy to lovers of 
St. Francis." ELIZABETH GOUDGE 



ST. FRANCIS 
OF ASSISI 

His Life and Writings 

as recorded by his 

contemporaries 

translated by LEO SHERLEY-PRICE 

The color and charm of St. Francis' 
personality, his serene faith and sim- 
plicity, his love and compassion for all 
creatures, his gaiety and courage in 
suffering have stirred the hearts of 
countless thousands. But those who 
see him only as a lover of birds, beasts, 
and beggars, miss the significance of 
his character and purpose. 

It is in The Mirror of Perfection, 
a collection of very early writings by 
his first followers, that the truest in- 
sight into The Poor Man of Assisi is 
to be found. Leo Sherley-Price's new 
translation the first in fifty years 
of these simple, Gospel-like stories 
reveals the saint with steel-blade sharp- 
ness. The Mirror is the natural com- 

(Continued on back flap) 



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Francis of Assisi^ Saint 
St. Francis of Assisi 




ST. FRANCIS OF ASSISI 




Leonard von Matt 



THE MOST ANCIENT PORTRAIT OF THE SAINT 

Painted in 1228, two years after his death, on the wall of a 

side-chapel at the Sacro Speco at Subiaco 





FRAN 
F ASS 



His Life and Writings as recorded 
by his contemporaries 

A new version of The Mirror of Perfection together with a 
complete collection of all the known writings of the Saint 

Translated by 

LEO SHERLEY-PRICE 



HARPER & BROTHERS 
PUBLISHERS - NEW YORK 



Nihil obstat: RICHAKDUS ROCHE, D.D., Censor Deputatus 
Imprimatur: } FRANCISCUS, Archiepiscopus Birmingamiensls 
Datum Birmingamiae, i$a Mali, 1959 



ST. FRANCIS OF ASSISI 

Copyright 1959 by A. R. Mowbray & Co., Limited 
Printed in the United States of America 



All rights in this book are reserved. No part of the book may be used 
or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission 
except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and 
reviews. For information address Harper & Brothers, 49 East 33rd Street, 
New York 16, N. Y. 



Library of Congress catalog card number: 60-8137 



Throughout the text "Saint" is abbreviated 
to "S.", following British usage. 



TRANSLATOR'S FOREWORD 

THE seraphic spirit of Saint Francis of Assisi went to its reward 
seven hundred years ago, but the life and character of the 
Poverello continue to exercise a profound and beneficent 
influence to this day, not only among his fellow Christians but 
even among many who stand outside the fold of the Catholic 
Church. The colour and charm of his personality, his serene 
faith and simplicity, his love and compassion for all creatures, 
his gaiety and courage in suffering have touched and stirred the 
hearts of countless thousands. But these admirable qualities 
should never be viewed through a cloud of sentimentality or 
regarded as the sum total of his life and message, for they are 
only outward and visible expressions of a spiritual genius aflame 
with the love of God, and stem from his heroic vocation as a 
true servant of his Master and a loyal follower of His perfect 
Gospel. As with all the Saints, the secret of Saint Francis's life 
lies in his total abandonment to the will of God, and those who 
see him only as a lover of birds, beasts, and beggars miss the true 
significance of his character and purpose. His ministry to the 
lepers, his loyalty to Lady Poverty, his preaching and penitence, 
his courteous service of all men, his every outward activity can 
be understood only in relation to his hidden life of prayer, 
penance, and self-discipline, his literal acceptance of the Gospel 
way of life, and his constant recollection of the Passion of our 
Lord Jesus Christ, the price and means of human redemption. 
He was hid with Christ: in God, so that the strength and inspiration 
for his exterior life sprang from his whole-hearted and self- 
effacing devotion to Christ Crucified, through which,.his unique 
personality and natural gifts were ever-increasingly transformed, 
enriched, and directed to such a degree of perfection that with 

5 



Saint Paul he might rightly say, I live, yet not I, for Christ liveth 
in me. The abiding attraction of Saint Francis is due, therefore, 
not only that of a lovable personality, but of a radiant holiness, 
and those who desire to understand him and share his secret of 
his life can best begin by reading his own writings and the true 
accounts given of him by his early companions. 

In his Sources for the Life of Saint Francis Dr. J. R. H. Moorman 
writes: 'It is hard to understand that when Paul Sabatier wrote 
his famous Vie de S. Francois in 1894, the Mirror of Perfection was 
still undiscovered, although some of the chapters in it were 
known from a collection entitled Speculum Vitae and published 
in 1504.' Since its discovery a great deal of research has taken 
place, and there has been wide discussion as to its origin and 
value. While the subject is too complex to be of great interest 
to the average reader, it is important to realize that in the 
Mirror of Perfection we have much material on the life of Saint 
Francis which is of very early date and first-hand authority. 
The general consensus of opinion among Franciscan scholars is 
that the work was compiled at the Porziuncula about the year 
1318 by an unknown member of the Order, who in one manu- 
script of the book states that he had drawn upon material written 
by the first companions of the Saint. Internal evidence reveals 
that this includes Thomas de Celano's Vita Secunda and a work 
known as Legenda antiqua de Perugia which was compiled about 
1312 and was based upon the rotuli or parchments written by 
Brother Leo, the closest companion of Saint Francis, and which 
he is known to have deposited for safe keeping with the Sisters 
of Saint Clare, at San Damiano. These parchments, now lost, 
contained Leo's personal reminiscences and stories of his friend 
and Master. In those days it was quite customary for a writer 
to adapt or transcribe material from the works of others without 
making any formal acknowledgement, and it is virtually certain 
that although the Mirror cannot be ascribed to Brother Leo 
himself, it rests largely on his authority and contains a great deal 
of material lifted bodily from his writings, together with other 

6 



material sent in to Assisi by other individuals or groups of friars 
in response to an appeal by Crescentius, Minister-General of the 
Order, in 1244. 

From the outset it will be apparent to the reader that the 
Mirror of Perfection is not intended to provide a full and chrono- 
logical biography of Saint Francis; this had already been 
attempted with limited success both by Thomas of Celano, who 
had been entrusted with this task by Pope Gregory IX, and by 
Saint Bona ventura, Minister-General of the Order. Rather is it a 
rosary of stories linked together by the chain of Saint Francis's 
personality, and selected so as to illustrate various aspects of his 
life and mission to the world. Accordingly these accounts are 
grouped together under such headings as 'His perfect poverty,' 
*His love for created things,' 'His zeal for prayer,' so that the 
reader may understand, ponder, and emulate the real qualities 
of the Little Poor Man of Assisi, the Pattern of the Friars and 
the Mirror of Perfection for all who seek to walk in the way of 
the Gospel. 

May the inspiration of his life and the support of his prayers 
strengthen those who read this book, and enable them to 
conquer the temptations, problems, and fears of this present age 
in the spirit and power of Christ. 

LEO SHERLEY-PRICE 



ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS 

As it seems appropriate that a modern translation of the life and 
writings of St. Francis should be accompanied by a modern 
translation of the Vulgate, all quotations from Holy Scripture 
in this work are taken from the version by the late Monsignor 
Ronald Knox, copyright 1944, 1948, 1950, by Sheed and Ward, 
Inc., New York, and used by kind permission of the publishers. 

The illustrations are reproduced from photographs taken by 
Leonard von Matt, Buochs, Switzerland, by kind permission. 



CONTENTS 
THE MIRROR OF PERFECTION 

PART PAGE 

I ON THE PERFECTION OF POVERTY . . .15 

H ON CHARITY AND COMPASSION TOWARDS ONE*S 

NEIGHBOUR . . . .42 

HI ON THE PERFECTION OF HOLY HUMILITY AND OBEDIENCE 

IN BLESSED FRANCIS AND HIS FRIARS . . 53 

IV ON HIS ZEAL FOR THE OBSERVANCE OF THE RULE, AND 

FOR THE ORDER AS A WHOLE . . .95 

V ON HIS ZEAL FOR THE PERFECTION OF THE FRIARS . 106 

VI ON HIS CONSTANT FERVOUR OF LOVE AND PITY FOR 

THE PASSION OF CHRIST . . . ,113 

VH ON JUS ZEAL FOR PRAYER AND THE DIVINE OFFICE, AND 
HIS DESIRE TO PRESERVE THE SPIRIT OF JOY IN HIM- 
SELF AND IN OTHERS . . . .116 

VIE ON CERTAIN TEMPTATIONS WHICH THE LORD ALLOWED 

TO ASSAIL HIM ..... 121 

DC ON THE SPIRIT OF PROPHECY .... 125 

X ON GOD'S PROVIDENCE FOR HIM IN MATERIAL THINGS 136 
XI ON HIS LOVE FOR CREATURES, AND OF CREATURES FOR 

HIM ...... 140 

XH ON HIS DEATH, AND THE JOY THAT HE SHOWED WHEN 

HE KNEW THAT DEATH WAS DRAWING NEAR . . 149 

THE WRITINGS OF ST. FRANCIS 

THE PRAYERS AND PRAISES . . * .157 

I A Paraphrase of the Lord's Prayer . . 157 

II The Praises of the Trinity . . .160 



PAGE 



* III The Song of Brother Sun . . .161 

IV The Blessing of Brother Leo . . .163 

V The Praises of the Blessed Virgin Mary . . 165 

- VI The Praises of the Virtues . . .165 

- VII Two Prayers . . . . .166 
VIII An Antiphon of the Blessed Virgin Mary . 167 

THE COUNSELS . . . . . .168 

THE LETTERS . . . . . .180 

- I To all the Faithful . . . .180 

* II To the Chapter General . . .187 

III To a Minister . . . . .192 

IV To Rulers of the People . . .193 
V To all Guardians . . . .194 

VI To the Clergy . . . . .195 

VII To Brother Leo . . . .197 

VIH Two fragments to Saint Clare . . .198 

IX Instructions on living in a hermitage . .198 

THE TESTAMENT ...... 200 

THE FIRST RULE ...... 204 

THE SECOND RULE ..... 227 

ILLUSTRATIONS 

THE MOST ANCIENT PORTRAIT OF THE SAINT Frontispiece 

THE PORZIUNCULA facing page 62 

S. CLARE'S GARDEN AT SAN DAMIANO 158 



10 



THE MIRROR OF PERFECTION 



PROLOGUE 

S. Francis's reply to the Ministers who were unwilling to obey 
the Rule. 

AFTER the second Rule written by blessed Francis had been 
lost, he went up a mountain (Monte Colombo, near Rieti) with 
Brother Leo of Assisi and Brother Bonizo of Bologna, to draw 
up another, and under the guidance of Christ he had it written 
down. But many Ministers came in a body to Brother Elias, 
the Vicar of blessed Francis, and said, 'We hear that Brother 
Francis is drawing up a new Rule, and we fear that he will 
make it so harsh that it will be impossible for us to keep it. 
So we would like you to go and tell him that we are not willing 
to be bound by this Rule. Let him make it for himself, and not 
for us.' But Brother Elias feared a rebuke from the holy Father, 
and refused to go. And when' they all pressed him, he said 
that he would not go without them, so they all went together. 

When Brother Elias approached the place where blessed 
Francis was standing, he called to him. And when he had 
answered and saw the Ministers, he asked, *What do these 
Brothers want?' Brother Elias said, 'They are Ministers, who 
hear that you are drawing up a new Rule, and they fear that 
you intend to make it too harsh. They refuse to be bound by 
it, and ask you to make it for yourself, and not for them.* 

At this blessed Francis raised his face to heaven and spoke to 
Christ, saying, 'Lord, was I not right when I said that they 
would not believe me?' And all present heard the voice of 
Christ answer from heaven, 'Francis, nothing in this Rule is 
yours; for all is Mine. I wish the Rule to be obeyed to the 

13 



letter, to the letter, without a gloss, without a gloss. I know 
what the frailty of man can achieve, and I know how much 
I intend to help them. So let those who are not willing to obey 
the Rule leave the Order/ 

Then blessed Francis turned to the friars and said, 'You have 
heard ! You have heard ! Do you want this to be repeated ?' 
And the Ministers confessed their fault and went away confused 
and terrified. 



14 



PART I 
ON THE PERFECTION OF POVERTY 



Firstly, how Messed Francis made known his will and intention (which 
he maintained from beginning to end) with regard to the observance of 

poverty. 

FRIAR Richard of the March was a man of noble birth, but even 
more noble in his holiness, and blessed Francis loved him dearly. 
One day he visited blessed Francis in the palace of the Bishop 
of Assisi, and among other matters that they discussed relating 
to the Order and the observance of the Rule, he asked him 
particularly on the following, saying, 'Tell me, Father, what 
was your original intention when you began to have brethren? 
And what is it to-day? And do you intend to maintain It to 
the day of your death? If I know this, I shall be able to testify 
to your intention and will from first to last. For example, may 
we friars who are clergy and possess many books keep them, 
provided that we regard them as the property of the Order ?' 

Blessed Francis said to him, e l assure you, brother, that it has 
been and remains my first and last intention and desire had 
the brethren only believed me that no friar should possess any- 
thing but a habit, a cord, and an undergarment, as our Rule 
allows.' 

But if any friar should be inclined to ask, 'Why did not blessed 
Francis insist that poverty was observed by the friars in his own 
day, as he told Brother Richard? And why did he not enforce 
its observance?', we who were with him can answer this question 
as we have heard it from his own mouth, for he himself spoke 
to the friars on this and on many other matters. For the guidance 
of the Order he also caused many things which he had learned 

15 



from God by constant prayer and meditation, to be written 
in the Rule, declaring them to be in accordance with God's 
will. But after he had revealed these things to the friars, they 
thought them harsh and unbearable, for they did not know 
what was to happen in the Order after his death. 

And because he feared dissension between himself and the 
friars, he was not willing to argue with them, but reluctantly 
yielded to their wishes, and asked pardon of God. But in order 
that the words which the Lord had put into his mouth for the 
guidance of the friars should not pass unheeded, he resolved 
to observe them himself, and by so doing to obtain his reward 
from God. At length he found contentment in this, and his 
soul received comfort. 



Saint Francis's reply to a Minister who asked his permission to 

have looks; and how the Ministers removed the chapter containing the 

Gospel prohibitions from the Rule without his knowledge. 

ONCE, when blessed Francis had returned from overseas, one 
of the Ministers was discussing the chapter on poverty with 
him, wishing in particular to learn his own will and interpreta- 
tion of it; especially since at that time the Rule contained a 
chapter on the prohibitions of the Gospel, namely, Take nothing 
with you on the journey, etc. 

And blessed Francis answered him, 'My intention is that the 
friars should possess nothing but a habit, with a cord and under- 
garment, as die Rule requires. And anyone who is compelled 
by necessity may wear sandals/ 

The Minister said, 'What shall I do, for I have books worth 
more than fifty pounds?* He said this because he wished to 
have them with a clear conscience, and knowing how strictly 
blessed Francis interpreted the chapter on poverty, it troubled 
him to possess so many books. 

16 



Blessed Francis said to him, 'I will not, should not, and cannot 
go against my own conscience and the perfection of the holy 
Gospel which we have vowed to observe/ Hearing this, the 
Minister was grieved; but seeing him so disturbed, blessed 
Francis said to him with great fervour of spirit in the presence 
of all the friars, 'You wish people to recognize you as Friars 
Minor, and to regard you as men who observe the holy Gospel; 
yet you want to have chests for your books !' 

But although the Ministers knew that the friars were obliged 
to observe the holy Gospel according to the Rule, they removed 
from the Rule the chapter where it is said, Take nothing for your 
journey, and thought that by so doing they would not be bound 
to observe the perfection of the Gospel. This was revealed to 
blessed Francis by the Holy Spirit, and he said in the presence 
of certain friars, 'The Friar Ministers think they can deceive 
God and me. On the contrary, in order that all friars shall know 
themselves bound to observe the perfection of the Gospel, I 
wish it to be written at the beginning and at the end of the Rule 
that friars are bound to the strict observance of the Holy Gospel 
of our Lord Jesus Christ. And in order that the brethren may 
never have any excuse to set aside the things that I have pro- 
claimed and still proclaim, which the Lord has placed in my 
mouth for their salvation and my own, I intend to demonstrate 
these things before God by my own actions, and by His help, 
I will observe them for ever/ 

So, from the early days when he began to have brethren to 
the day of his death, blessed Francis observed the whole of the 
Gospel to the letter. 



On the novice who sought his permission to own a psalter. 

AT another time a friar novice who knew how to recite the 
psalter, although not fluently, obtained leave from the Minister 

17 



General to have his own copy. But having heard that blessed 
Francis did not wish his friars to hanker after learning and 
books, he was not happy about having it without his permission. 
So when blessed Francis was visiting the friary to which this 
novice belonged, the novice said to him, 'Father, it would give 
me great pleasure to have a psalter. But although the Minister 
General has granted permission, I would like to have it with 
your approval.' To which blessed Francis replied, 'The Emperor 
Charles, Roland, Oliver, and all the paladins and men of valour 
were mighty in battle, fought the Infidels until death with 
great sweat and toil, and they gained a famous victory. And 
the holy martyrs themselves gave their lives in battle for the 
Faith of Christ. But in these days there are many who wish 
to win honour and praise from men by merely telling of their 
deeds. In the same way, there are many among us who want to 
win honour and praise by merely proclaiming and reciting the 
deeds of the Saints.' As though to say, 'Our concern is not 
with books and learning, but with holy deeds; for learning 
brings pride, but charity edifies.' 

Some days later, as blessed Francis was sitting by the fire, the 
novice spoke to him again about the psalter. And blessed Francis 
said to him, 'Once you have a psalter, you will want a breviary. 
And when you have a breviary, you will sit in a high chair like a 
great prelate, and say to your brother, "Bring me my breviary !" ' 
As he spoke, blessed Francis in great fervour of spirit took up a 
handful of ashes and placed them on his head, and rubbing 
his hand around his head as though he was washing it, he 
exclaimed, % a breviary ! I, a breviary !' And he repeated this 
many times, passing his hand over his head. And the friar was 
amazed and ashamed. 

Later, blessed Francis said to him, 'Brother, I was tempted 
in the same way to have books, but in order to learn the will of 
our Lord in this matter, I took the Gospels and prayed the Lord 
to reveal His will to me at the first opening of the book. And 
when my prayer was ended, at the first opening of the book 



I came upon the words of the holy Gospel, It is granted to you 
to understand the secret of God's kingdom; the rest must learn of it 
by parables. 9 And he said, 'There are so many who are eager to 
acquire learning, that blessed is the man who is content to be 
without it for love of the Lord God/ 

Many months later, when blessed Francis was at S. Mary of 
the Porziuncula, this friar spoke to him yet again about the 
psalter as he stood on the road near his cell beyond the house. 
And blessed Francis told him, *Go and do as your Minister says 
on this matter/ When he heard this, the friar turned back along 
the road, while blessed Francis stood thinking over what he had 
said to the friar. Suddenly he called after him, saying, 'Wait 
for me, brother, wait for me !' Overtaking him, he said, 'Come 
back and show me the place where I told you to do as your 
Minister directs about the psalter.' So when they had arrived 
at the place, blessed Francis knelt down before the friar and said, 
'Mea culpa, brother, mea culpa; for whoever wishes to be a Friar 
Minor should possess nothing but a habit with a cord and under- 
garment, as the Rule allows him. And those whom need 
obliges to do so may have sandals/ And whenever friars came 
to him to ask his advice on this matter, he used to give them the 
same reply. He often used to say, 'A man's knowledge is revealed 
by his actions, and the words of a Religious must be supported 
by his own deeds; for the test of the tree is in its fruit / 



5 

On observing poverty in books and beds, buildings and appointments. 

THE most blessed Father used to teach the friars to value books 
for their witness to God and not for their costliness, for their 
edification and not their elegance. He wished books to be few 
and held in common, and suitable to the needs of penniless 
friars. They were so badly provided with beds and blankets 

19 



that whoever had some threadbare rags spread over straw 
regarded it as a fine bed. 

He also told the friars to build their houses small and their 
cells of wood, not of stone, and he wanted them built in a 
humble style. He abhorred pretentious buildings, and disliked 
superfluous or elaborate appointments. He wished nothing 
about their tables or appointments to appear worldly or to remind 
them of the world, so that everything should proclaim their 
poverty and remind them that they were pilgrims and exiles. 



How Saint Francis compelled all the friars to leave a house which had 
keen called 'the house of the friars. 9 

WHILE he was passing through Bologna, he heard that a house 
had recently been built there for the friars. Directly he learned 
that it was known as 'the house of the friars,' he turned on his 
heel and left the city, giving strict orders that all the friars were 
to leave it at once and live in it no longer. 

So they all abandoned it, and even the sick were not allowed 
to remain, but were turned out with the rest, until the Lord 
Ugolino, Bishop of Ostia and Legate in Lombardy, publicly 
proclaimed that the house belonged to him. One of these 
friars, who was sick and obliged to leave the house, is still living 
to-day, and has written this account. 



How Saint Francis wished to destroy a house which the people of 
Assist had built at S. Mary of the Porziuncula. 

AT this period the friars had only a single poor cell thatched with 
straw, with walls of wpttle and daub. So when the time drew 
near for the General Chapter, which was held each year at 

20 



S. Mary of the Porziuncula, the people of Assisi, realizing that the 
friars were increasing in number daily, and that all of them 
assembled there each year, held a meeting. And within a few 
days, with great haste and zeal, they erected a large building of 
stone and mortar while blessed Francis was absent and knew 
nothing of it. 

When he returned from one of the Provinces and arrived 
for the Chapter, he was astonished at the house built there. 
And he was afraid that the sight of this house might make 
other friars build similar large houses in the places where they 
lived or were to live, and he desired this place to remain the 
example and pattern for all other houses of the Order. So 
before the Chapter ended he climbed onto the roof of the house 
and told other friars to dimb up with him. And with their help 
he began to throw to the ground the tiles with which the house 
was roofed, intending to destroy it to the very foundations. 
But some men-at-arms of Assisi were present to protect the 
place from the great crowd of sightseers who had gathered to 
watch the Chapter of the Friars. And when they saw that 
blessed Francis and other friars intended to destroy the house, 
they went up to him at once and said, 'Brother, this house 
belongs to the Commune of Assisi, and we are here to represent 
the Commune. We forbid you to destroy our house.' When 
he heard this, blessed Francis said to them, *If the house is yours t 
I will not touch it.' And forthwith he and the other friars came 
down. 

As a result of this incident, the people of the City of Assisi 
decreed that thenceforward whoever held the office of Mayor 
should be responsible for the repair of the house. And each year 
for a long time this decree was carried out. 



21 



How he rebuked his Vicar because he was having a small house built 
for the recitation of the Office. 

ON another occasion the Vicar of blessed Francis began to have 
a small house built at S. Mary's, where the friars could be quiet 
and recite the Hours, because so many friars visited the place 
that they had nowhere in which to say the Office. For all the 
friars of the Order used to come there, because no one was 
received into the Order except in S. Mary's. 

When the building was nearly completed, blessed Francis 
returned to the friary, and while in his cell he heard the noise 
made by the workmen. Calling his companion, he inquired 
what the friars were doing, and his companion told him all that 
was happening. 

Blessed Francis immediately sent for his Vicar, and said to 
him, 'Brother, this place is the example and pattern of the whole 
Order. I would rather have the friars living here put up with 
trouble and discomfort for love of the Lord God, so that other 
friars who come here carry away to their own houses a good 
example of poverty, rather than that they should enjoy every 
convenience and that these others should carry back to their 
own houses an example of building, saying, "At the friary of 
Saint Mary of the Porziuncula, which is the chief house of the 
Order, there are such and such great buildings, so we may 
rightly build in our own places as well." ' 



How he was not willing to remain in a well-built cell, or one that 
was called his own. 

ONE of the friars, a deeply spiritual man, who was very intimate 
with blessed Francis, had a cell built standing a little distance 

22 



from the hermitage where he lived, so that blessed Francis 
could remain at prayer there whenever he visited the place. 
So when blessed Francis came there, this friar conducted him 
to the cell; but although it was built only of wood, rough-hewn 
with axe and hatchet, the Father said, 'This cell is too fine. 
If you wish me to stay here, have a cell made with branches 
and ferns as its only covering inside and out.' For the poorer 
and smaller the house or cell, the readier he was to live in it. 
And when the friar had done this, blessed Francis remained 
there for some days. 

One day, however, when he had left the cell, one of the friars 
went to look at it, and afterwards came to the pkce where 
blessed Francis was. Seeing him, the holy Father said to him, 
'Where have you come from, brother ?' 'I have come from your 
cell,' he replied. Then blessed Francis said, 'Because you have 
called it mine, some one else shall use it henceforward, and not 
I.' For we who were with him have often heard him quote the 
saying, Foxes have holes, and the birds of the air their resting-places ; 
the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head. He also used to say, 
'When the Lord remained in the desert, where He prayed and 
fasted forty days and forty nights, He did not have a cell or house 
built for Him there, but sheltered beneath the rocks in the 
mountains/ So, after His example, he would not have any 
house or cell that could be called his own, nor did he ever 
have one built. Indeed, if ever he chanced to say to the friars, 
'Go and make that cell ready,' he would not afterwards live 
in it, because of that saying in the holy Gospel, Be not anxious, 
etc. For even at the time of his death he had it written in his 
Testament that all cells and houses of the friars were to be built 
only of wood and clay, the better to safeguard poverty and 
humility. 



23 



10 

The Sainfs purpose and method of choosing building sites in towns. 

ONCE when blessed Francis was in Siena for treatment of his 
disease of the eyes, Master Bonaventura (not the Saint), who had 
given the friars the land on which the friary was built, said to 
him, 'Father, how do you like this place?' And blessed Francis 
said to him, 'Do you wish me to explain how the houses of the 
friars should be built?' 'Please do, Father,' he replied. And blessed 
Francis said, 'When the friars come to any city where they 
have no house, and meet anyone there who is willing to give 
them sufficient land to build a house, have a garden, and all that 
is necessary, they should first reckon how much land is sufficient 
for them, always bearing in mind holy poverty and the good 
example that we are obliged to show in all things/ 

This he said because he did not want the friars to transgress 
against poverty in any way, either in their houses, churches, 
gardens, or anything else that they used. He did not wish 
diem to possess places by right of ownership, but to live in them 
as strangers and exiles. This was why he did not wish the friars 
to live together in large numbers in their houses, because he 
thought it difficult to observe poverty in a large community. 
And from the beginning of his conversion until his death it 
was his intention that absolute poverty should be observed in all 
things. 

'When the friars have examined the land necessary for a house/ 
he said, 'they should go to the Bishop of that city and say to him, 
"My Lord, so-and-so is willing to give us so much land for the 
love of God and for the salvation of his soul, so that we may 
build a house there. We are therefore coming to you first of all, 
because you are the father and lord of the souls of all the 
flock entrusted to you, as well as of ourselves and of all the 
brethren who will dwell in this place. So, with God's blessing 
and your own, -we would like to build there." 

24 



He spoke thus because the harvest of souls which the friars 
desire to gather is more readily obtained by working in harmony 
with the clergy, thereby helping both them and the people, 
than by antagonizing them, even though they may win the 
people. And he said, 'The Lord has called us to maintain His 
Faith, and support the Bishops and clergy of Holy Church. 
So we are bound always to love, honour and respect them to 
the best of our ability. For, as their name implies, the Friars are 
called Minors because they ought to be more humble than all 
other men in this world, both in example and in action. At 
the beginning of my conversion the Lord put His word into 
the mouth of the Bishop of Assisi so that he might counsel me 
rightly and strengthen me in the service of Christ; because of 
this and many other excellent virtues that I see in prelates, I 
wish to love and respect not only the Bishops but the poor 
priests as well, and to regard them as my masters. 

6 When the friars have received the blessing of the Bishop, let 
them go and mark out the boundaries of the land which they 
have accepted for their house, and as a sign of holy poverty 
and humility, let them plant a hedge instead of building a wall. 
Afterwards let them erect simple little huts of clay and wood, 
and a number of cells where the friars can pray or work from, 
time to time in order to increase their merit and avoid idleness. 
Their churches are to be small; they are not to build 
great churches in order to preach to the people, or for any other 
reason, for they show greater humility and a better example 
when they visit other churches to preach. And should prelates or 
clergy, whether Religious or secular, visit their houses, their 
humble little dwellings, cells, and tiny churches will speak for 
themselves, and these things will edify them more tfrati any 
words.' 

He said also, 'Friars often raise large buildings, and violate 
our holy poverty, and by so doing provoke criticism and set a 
bad example. And sometimes, in order to obtain a better or 
holier place, or a larger congregation, they abandon their own 

25 



houses out of covetousness and greed ; or they pull them down 
and build others that are large and pretentious. Consequently 
those who have contributed to their cost, and others who see it, 
are greatly offended and distressed. So it is better for friars to 
erect humble little buildings, remaining loyal to their profession 
and setting a good example to their neighbours, rather than to 
act contrary to their profession and set a bad example to others. 
But should the friars ever leave a poor little house for one in a 
more suitable place, the offence caused would be less.' 

11 

How friars, especially those who had been prelates and scholars, 
opposed Saint Francis s desire to erect humble friaries and buildings. 

As a sign of holy poverty, and humility blessed Francis decreed 
that the churches of the friars were to be small and their houses 
built only of wood and clay. For he wanted the friary of Saint 
Mary of the Porziuncula to be a pattern especially for buildings 
constructed of wood and clay, so that it might be a permanent 
memorial for all friars, present and to come, since it was the first 
and chief house of the whole Order. But some of the friars 
opposed him in this matter, saying that in some Provinces 
timber was more costly than stone, so that it did not seem 
sensible to them that their houses should be built of wood and 
clay. 

But blessed Francis refused to argue with them, especially 
since he was nearing death and seriously ill. So he caused it 
to be written in his Testament: Friars are to beware of accepting 
churches, houses, and all other places built for them unless they con- 
form to holy poverty; and they are always to lodge in them as strangers 
and pilgrims. 

But we, who were with him when he wrote the Rule and 
most of his other writings, testify that he had many things 
written in the Rule and in his other writings to which many 

26 



friars were opposed, especially the prelates and scholars among 
us ; and to-day these things would have been very beneficial and 
valuable to the whole Order. But he had a great fear of scandal, 
and yielded, although with reluctance, to the wishes of the 
brethren. But he often said: *Woe to those friars who oppose 
me in this matter, which I am firmly convinced to be the will 
of God for the greater usefulness and needs of the whole Order, 
although I unwillingly submit to their wish/ So he often used 
to say to his companions, 'It causes me great grief and distress 
that in these matters, which I learn from God with great effort 
in prayer and meditation, and which I know to be in accordance 
with His will, certain brethren who rely on their own experience 
and false prudence, oppose me and render them ineffective, 
saying, "These things are to be held and observed, and not 
those." ' 



12 

How he regarded it as theft to obtain alms beyond one's needs. 

BLESSED Francis used to say to his friars, 'I have never been a 
thief in the matter of alms, and obtained or used more than I 
needed. I have always accepted less than my needs, lest other 
poor folk should be cheated of their share; for to act otherwise 
would be theft.' 



13 

How Christ told blessed Francis that He did not wish friars to possess 
anything, either in common or individually. 

WHEN the Friar Ministers urged him to allow the friars to 
possess something, at least, in common, so that so great a 
company might have some resources, blessed Francis called 
upon Christ in prayer, and took counsel with Him on the 

27 



matter. And Christ at once answered him, saying, 'It Is My 
-will to withhold all things from them, both in general and in 
particular. I will always be ready to provide for this family, 
however great it may become, and I will always cherish it so 
long as it shall trust in Me.* 



14 

Saint Francis 9 s hatred of money, and how he punished a friar who 
touched money. 

FRANCIS, the true friend and imitator of Christ, utterly despised 
all things belonging to this world, and hated money above all 
else. He always urged his brethren both by word and example 
to avoid it as they would the devil. And he told the friars to 
have as little love and use for money as for dung. 

One day, a layman happened to enter Saint Mary of the 
Porziuncuk to pray, and laid some money near the cross as an 
offering. When he had left, one of the friars undiiiJdngly 
picked it up and placed it on a window ledge. But when this 
was reported to blessed Francis, this friar, realizing himself 
detected, at once hastened to ask forgiveness; and, falling to 
the ground, offered himself for punishment. 

The holy Father reproved him, and took him severely to task 
for touching the money; and he ordered him to take the money 
from the window in his mouth, carry it outside the friary, 
and lay it on a heap of ass's dung. 

When this friar readily obeyed this order, all who saw or 
heard were filled with the greatest fear, and thenceforward 
despised money as ass's dung. And further examples moved 
them to despise it altogether. 



28 



15 

On avoiding luxury and many changes of clothing; and on being 
patient in privations. 

BLESSED Francis, endowed with virtue from on high, was 
warmed by divine fire within rather than by outward clothing. 
He strongly disapproved of those in the Order who wore 
three garments and used finer clothing than necessary. He used 
to say that any need revealed by a love of pleasure and not by 
reason was the sign of a dead spirit, for 'when the spirit becomes 
lukewarm and inward grace grows cold, it follows that flesh 
and blood seek their own pleasures.' He also used to say, 
'When the soul kcks any desire for spiritual joys, the flesh is 
bound to turn to its own. Then the lower desires plead the 
excuse of necessity, and the desires of the flesh influence the 
conscience. But if a genuine need besets any Brother and he 
immediately hastens to satisfy it, what reward can he expect? 
For an opportunity has arisen to win merit, but he has already 
shown clearly that he has no desire for it. For to refuse to endure 
these wants patiently is nothing but a return to Egypt' (Exod. 
xvi 2). 

Lastly, he desired that friars should on no account possess 
more than two habits, although he allowed these to be lined with 
patches stitched together. He used to say that choice materials 
were abhorrent, and sharply rebuked those who acted contrary 
to this ; and in order to shame such people by his own example, 
he always repaired his own habit with rough sacking. For this 
reason, even in death he directed that his burial habit was to be 
covered with sacking. But if any friars were troubled by sick- 
ness, or had other needs, he would allow them another soft 
garment next the skin, provided that austerity and roughness 
was always maintained in their outer garment. For he used to 
say with the greatest sorrow, 'Henceforward strictness will be 
so greatly relaxed and lukewarmness rule, that the sons of a 

29 



poor Father will not be ashamed to wear scarlet cloth, only the 
colour being changed/ 

16 

How he refused to comfort his own body with things that he thought 
other friars might lack. 

WHILE blessed Francis was staying in the hermitage of Saint 
Eleutherius near Rieti, he lined his own habit and those of his 
companions with some pieces of cloth because of the intense 
cold. for, as was his custom, he had only one habit and as a 
result his body began to derive a little comfort. A short while 
afterwards, when he returned from prayer, he said with great 
joy to his companion, 'It is my duty to be the pattern and 
example to all the brethren; so although it is necessary for my 
body to have a lined habit, I must consider my other brethren 
who have the same needs, and who perhaps do not and cannot 
possess it. I must therefore have sympathy with them in this 
matter, and endure the same privations as they, so that when 
they see me doing so, they may have the strength to bear theirs 
patiently/ 

But we who were with him cannot express either in words 
or writing how many great necessities he denied his body in 
order to give a good example to the friars, and help them to 
bear their poverty patiently. For once the friars began to increase 
in numbers, he made it his chief and particular concern to teach 
the brethren what they should do or avoid by his own actions 
rather than by words. 

17 
How he was ashamed to see anyone poorer than himself. 

ONCE, when he had met a poor man and considered his poverty, 
he said to his companion, 'This man's poverty brings great 

30 



shame on us, and is a stern rebuke to our own. For since I have 
chosen holy poverty as my lady, my delight, and my spiritual 
and bodily treasure, I feel the greatest shame when I find some- 
one poorer than myself. And the story has gone round the whole 
world that I am vowed to poverty before God and men/ 



18 

How, ivhen the first friars were ashamed, he encouraged and taught 
them to go out and seek alms. 

WHEN blessed Francis began to have friars he was full of joy 
at their conversion, and that God had given him a goodly 
company. And he had such love and respect for them that he 
did not insist that they went out for alms, because it was clear 
to him that they were ashamed to go. So, in order to spare 
them the shame, he used to go out every day to collect alms 
alone. But he had been accustomed to comfort in the world, 
was frail by nature, and was further weakened by overmuch 
fasting and hardship. And when he became exhausted by his 
efforts, he realized that he could not continue this work single- 
handed. He knew, also, that his brethren were called to the same 
way of life, although they were ashamed to follow it; for as yet 
they did not fully realize this, nor were they discerning enough 
to say, 'We also will go out for alms.' 

So he said to them, 'My dearest brothers, little children, do 
not be ashamed to go out for alms, for our Lord made Himself 
poor in this world for our sakes, and we have chosen to follow 
His example on the road of true poverty. This is our heritage, 
which our Lord Jesus Christ has won and bequeathed to us 
and to all who desire to live after His example in most holy 
poverty. I solemnly assure you that many of the noblest and 
wisest men of this age will join our company and regard it 
as a great honour to go out begging. So go out for alms con- 

31 



fidently and gladly with the blessing of God. You should be more 
willing and happy to go for alms than a man who brings back 
an hundred coins in exchange for one, because you are offering 
the love of God to those from whom you ask alms when you 
say, "Give us alms for the love of the Lord God," for in com- 
parison with Him heaven and earth are as nothing/ 

But because the friars were as yet few in number, he could 
not send them out two by two, but he sent them singly through 
the towns and villages. So when they returned with the alms 
they had obtained, each of them showed blessed Francis the 
alms that he had received. And one would say to another, *I 
have received more alms than you.' And blessed Francis was 
glad when he saw them so happy and cheerful. And thence- 
forward each of them readily asked permission to go out begging. 



19 

How he did not wish the friars to be provident and anxious for 
to-morrow. 

WHILE blessed Francis was with the first friars, he lived with 
them in such poverty that they observed the holy Gospel to 
the letter in all things and through all things, from the very day 
when our Lord revealed to him that he and his friars were to 
live according to the pattern of the holy Gospel. He therefore 
forbade the friar who cooked for the brethren to put dried beans 
into warm water in the evening, as is usual, when he intended 
to give them to the friars to eat on the following day. This 
was in order to observe the saying of the holy Gospel, Do not 
fret over to-morrow. So the friar delayed putting them to soften 
until after Matins on the day when they were to be eaten. 
Many friars, especially in towns, continued to observe this 
custom for a long time, and would not seek or accept more alms 
than were necessary to support them for a single day. 

32 



20 

How by word and example he reproved friars who had prepared a 
lavish meal on Christmas Day because a Minister was present. 

WHEN one of the Friar-Ministers had visited blessed Francis 
in order to keep the Feast of Christmas with him in the friary 
at Rieti, the friars prepared the tables rather ekborately and 
carefully on Christmas Day in honour of the Minister, putting 
on fair white linen and glass vessels. But when the Father came 
down from Ms cell to eat, and saw the tables raised up from the 
ground and prepared with such great care, he went back secretly 
and took the hat and staff of a poor beggar who had arrived that 
day. And calling in a low voice to one of his companions, he 
went out of the door of the friary unseen by the brethren in the 
house, while his companion remained inside near the door. 
Meanwhile the friars came in to dine, for blessed Francis had 
ordered that, whenever he did not come at once at mealtime, the 
friars were not to wait for him. 

When he had stood outside for a while, he knocked on the 
door, and his companion immediately opened to him. And 
entering with his hat on his back and his staff in his hand, lie 
came like a stranger or beggar to the door of the room where 
the friars were eating, and called out, 'For the love of God, 
give alms to this poor sick stranger !* But the Minister and the 
other friars recognized him at once. And the Minister replied, 
'Brother, we are poor as well, and because we are so many, the 
alms that we have only meet our needs. But for the love of God 
which you have invoked, come in and we will share with you 
the alms which the Lord has given us/ 

When he had entered and stood before the friars' table, the 
Minister handed to him the plate from which he was eating, 
and also some bread. And taking it, he humbly sat down on 
the floor beside the fire in the sight of the friars sitting at table. 
Then he sighed and said to the brethren, 'When I saw the table 

33 



elaborately and carefully laid, I felt that this was not the table 
of poor religious who go around for alms from door to door 
each day. Dearest brothers, we are under a greater obligation 
than other Religious to follow the example of Christ's humility 
and poverty, for it is to this end that we have been called and 
professed before God and men. So it seems to me that I am 
sitting like a Friar Minor, because the feasts of our Lord and the 
Saints are better honoured in the want and poverty by which 
these Saints won heaven than in the luxury and excess by which 
a soul is estranged from heaven/ 

The friars were ashamed at his words, realizing that he was 
speaking no more than the truth. And seeing him seated on the 
ground, wishing to correct and teach them in such a holy and 
simple way, some of them began to weep aloud. For he warned 
the brethren to eat humbly and simply, so as to edify lay folk. 
And if any poor man should visit them or be invited by the 
friars, he was to sit with them as an equal, and not the poor man 
on the floor and the friars on high. 

21 

How the Lord Bishop of Ostla wept and was edified by the poverty of 
the friars at the time of the Chapter. 

WHEN the Lord Bishop of Ostia, who later became Pope 
Gregory (IX), attended the Chapter of the friars at Saint Mary 
of the Porziuncula, he entered the house with many knights and 
clergy to see the friars' dormitory. And seeing how the friars 
lay on the ground and had nothing beneath them but a little 
straw, and a few poor broken-down pallets, and no pillows, 
he began to weep freely before them all, saying, 'Look how the 
friars sleep here! But we, wretched creatures, enjoy so many 
luxuries ! What will become of us ?' So he and all the others 
were much edified. He did not even find a table in the place, 
because the friars used to eat on the ground; for as long as 

34 



blessed Francis lived, all the friars in that house used to eat 
on the ground. 



22 



How, at blessed Francis s advice, the soldiers obtained their needs by 
asking alms from door to door. 

WHEN blessed Francis was in the friary at Bagni near the city of 
Nocera, his feet began to swell badly because of the disease of 
dropsy, and he became seriously ill. When the people of Assisi 
heard of this, they hurriedly sent soldiers to the friary to escort 
him to Assisi, fearing that if he remained there, others would 
obtain his most holy body. But while they were bringing him, 
they stopped in a fortress-town belonging to the Commune of 
Assisi in order to eat; and blessed Francis rested in the house of 
a poor man who welcomed him willingly and gladly. Mean- 
while the soldiers went through the town to buy themselves 
what they needed, and found nothing. So they came back to 
the holy Father and told him jokingly, 'Brother, you will have 
to let us share your alms, for we cannot buy anything to eat !' 
Then blessed Francis said to them with great fervour, 'You have 
not found anything because you trusted in your flies (meaning, 
your money), and not in God. Go back to the houses where 
you went trying to buy food; put aside your shame, and ask 
alms for the love of the Lord God. The Holy Spirit will move 
them to give generously/ So they went away and asked alms 
as blessed Francis had told them; and those from whom they 
asked alms gave them whatever they had with great gladness 
and generosity. And recognizing that a miracle had happened 
to them, they returned to blessed Francis praising God with 
great joy. 

The holy Father used to regard it as an act of great nobility 
and dignity before God and the world to ask alms for love of the 
Lord God, for all things which our heavenly Father has created 

35 



for the use of men are granted freely despite their sin both to the 
worthy and to the unworthy through the love of His beloved 
Son. He used to say that the servant of God ought to ask alms 
for the love of God more willingly and gladly than one who, 
out of his own generosity and sympathy, might go and say, If 
anyone will give me a penny, I will give him a thousand pieces 
of gold.' For, by asking alms, the servant of God offers the 
love of God to those of whom he begs, and in comparison with 
this all things in heaven and earth are nothing. 

So before the friars increased in numbers, and even after they 
became numerous, whenever a friar went through the world 
preaching, and was invited by anyone, however noble or wealthy, 
to eat and lodge with him, he would always go for alms at meal- 
time before he came to his host's house, in order to uphold 
the good example of the friars and the dignity of Lady Poverty. 
Blessed Francis often used to say to his host, 'I will not resign my 
royal dignity and heritage, and my profession and that of my 
brethren (that is, to beg bread from door to door).' And some- 
times his host would go with him and carry the alms which 
blessed Francis had collected, and preserve them like relics out 
of devotion to him. 

The writer has seen this happen many times, and testifies to 
these things. 

23 

How he went out for alms before he would go in to the Cardinal 9 s 

table. 

ONCE when blessed Francis was visiting the Lord Bishop of 
Ostia, who later became Pope Gregory (IX), he went out un- 
observed at dinner-time in order to ask alms from door to door. 
And when he returned, the Lord of Ostia had already gone in 
to table with many knights and nobles. But when the holy 
Father entered, he laid the alms that he had collected on the 

36 



table before the Cardinal, and sat down beside him, for the 
Cardinal always wished that blessed Francis should sit next him 
at table. The Cardinal was somewhat embarrassed to find that 
blessed Francis had gone out for alms and laid them on the 
table; but he said nothing at the time because of his guests. 

"When blessed Francis had eaten a little, he took up his alms 
and in the name of the Lord God distributed a little to each of 
the knights and chaplains of the Lord Cardinal. And they all 
accepted them with great reverence and devotion, reaching out 
their hoods and sleeves; and some ate the alms, while others 
kept them out of devotion to him. 

After dinner the Cardinal entered his own apartment, taking 
blessed Francis with him. And stretching out his arms, he em- 
braced him with great joy and gladness, saying, 'My simple 
brother, why have you shamed me to-day by going out for 
alms when you visit my house, which is a home for your 
friars?' 'On the contrary, my lord/ replied blessed Francis, 'I 
have shown you the greatest honour; for when a servant does 
his duty and fulfils his obedience to his lord, he does honour 
to his lord/ And he said, It is my duty to be the pattern and 
example of our poor friars, especially as I know that in this 
Order of friars there are, and will be, friars who are Minors in 
name and in deed, who, for love of the Lord God and by the 
anointing of the Holy Spirit Who will guide them in all things, 
will be humble and obedient, and the servants of their brethren. 
There are also, and will be, some among them who are held back 
by shame or bad custom, and who scorn to humble themselves 
and stoop to going for alms and doing other servile work. 
Because of this I must by my own actions teach those who 
belong, and will belong, to the Order, that they are inexcusable 
in the eyes of God both in this life and in the life to come. So 
while I am with you, who are our Lord and Apostolic Protector, 
or with other great and wealthy men of this world who for love 
of God not only receive me into your houses but even press me 
to eat at your table, I will not be ashamed to go out for alms. 

37 



Indeed, I intend to regard and retain this practice as the highest 
nobility and royal dignity, and to do it in honour of Him Who, 
though He was Lord of all, willed for our sakes to become the 
servant of all. And when He was rich and glorious in His 
majesty, He came as one poor and despised in our humility. So I 
want all present or future friars to know that I regard it as a 
greater consolation of soul and body to sit at the poor little 
table of the brethren, and to see in front of me the meagre alms 
that they beg from door to door for love of the Lord God, 
than to sit at your table and that of other lords, abundantly 
provided with different dishes. For the bread of charity is holy 
bread, hallowed by the praise and love of God, and when a 
friar goes out for alms he should first say, "Praised and blessed 
be the Lord God !" And afterwards he should say, ''Give us 
alms for love of the Lord God." ' 

The Cardinal was much edified by the holy Father's words, 
and said, 'My son, do whatever seems good to you, for God 
is with you, and you with Him.' For, as blessed Francis often 
said, it was his wish that no friar should remain long without 
going out to beg alms, both because of its great merit, and 
lest he should become ashamed to go. Indeed, the nobler and 
greater a friar had been in the world, the more pleased and 
edified he was when lie went for alms and did other humble 
work as the friars were then accustomed to do. 



24 

On the friar who neither prayed nor worked, but ate welL 

IN the early days of the Order, when the friars were living at 
Rivo Torto near Assisi, there was one friar among them who 
prayed little and did no work; he refused to go out for alms, but 
used to eat heartily. Thinking the matter over, blessed Francis 
knew by the Holy Spirit that the man was a lover of the flesh, 

38 



and said to him, 'Be off with you; Brother Fly, since you want 
to eat up the labours of your brethren, and be idle in the work of 
God. You are like a barren and idle drone, who gathers nothing 
and does no work, but consumes the toil and gain of the good 
bees!' 

So he went his way, and because he was a lover of the flesh, 
he neither asked mercy nor found it. 



25 

How he went out with fervour to meet a beggar who was walking along 
with his alms and praising God. 

ON another occasion, when blessed Francis was at S. Mary of 
the Porziuncula, a friar of true spiritual poverty was coming 
along the street on his way back from Assisi with alms, and as he 
walked he was cheerfully singing God's praises in a loud voice. 
As he drew near the church of S. Mary, blessed Francis heard 
him, and at once went out to meet him with the greatest fervour 
and joy. He ran up to him in the road, and joyfully kissed the 
shoulder on which he was carrying a bag with alms. Then he 
took the bag from his shoulder, laid it on his own shoulder, 
and thus bore it into the friary. And he told the brethren, 'This 
is how I want a friar of mine to go out and return with alms, 
happy, joyful, and praising God/ 



26 

How the Lord revealed to him that the friars were to be called Minors, 
and were to proclaim peace and salvation. 

ONE day blessed Francis said, 'The Order and life of the Friars 
Minor is a little flock which the Son of God has asked of His 
heavenly Father in these latter days, saying, "Father, I would that 

39 



Thou shouldest form and give Me a new and humble people 
in these latter days, who will be unlike all others who have 
preceded them in humility and poverty, and content to possess 
Me alone." And the Father said to His beloved Son, "My 
Son, it is done as Thou hast asked." ' 

So blessed Francis used to say that God willed and revealed to 
him that they should be called Friars Minor, because they were 
to be the poor and humble people whom the Son of God had 
asked of His Father. Of this people the Son of God Himself 
speaks in the Gospel: Do not be afraid, My little flock. Your Father 
has determined to give you His kingdom. And again: Believe Me, 
when you did it to one of the least of My brethren here, you did it to 
Me. And although the Lord was speaking of aU poor and 
spiritual people, He was referring more particularly to the Order 
of Friars Minor which was to arise in His Church. 

Therefore, since it was revealed to blessed Francis that it 
should be called the Order of Friars Minor, he caused it to be 
written in his first Rule, which he took before the Lord Pope 
Innocent III; who approved and granted it, and later proclaimed 
it publicly in Consistory. 

The Lord also revealed to him the greeting which the friars 
were to use, and he caused this to be written in his Testament, 
saying: The Lord revealed to me that I should say as a greeting, 'The 
Lord give you peace. 9 

In the early days of the Order, while he was travelling with 
a friar who was one of the first twelve, he used to greet men and 
women along the road and in the fields, saying, 'The Lord give 
you peace.' And because people had never heard such a greeting 
from any Religious, they were very startled. Indeed, some said 
indignantly, * What do you mean by this greeting of yours ?* 
As a result the friar became embarrassed, and said to blessed 
Francis, * Allow me to use some other greeting.' But the holy 
Father said, 'Let them chatter, for they do not understand the 
ways of God. Don't feel ashamed because of this, for one day 

40 



the nobles and princes of this world will respect you and the other 
friars for this greeting. For it is no marvel if the Lord should 
desire to have a new little flock, whose speech and way of life 
are unlike those of all its predecessors, and which is content to 
possess Him alone, the Most High and most glorious/ 



41 



PART II 

ON CHARITY AND COMPASSION TOWARDS ONE'S 
NEIGHBOUR 



27 

Firstly, how blessed Francis made concessions to a friar who was dying 

of hunger by eating with him, and how he warned the friars to use 

discretion in their penance. 

DURING the period when blessed Francis began to have brethren, 
and was living with them at Rivo Torto near Assisi, one night 
while all the brethren were asleep one of the friars cried out, 
saying, 1 am dying ! I am dying !' Startled and frightened, all 
the friars awoke. Blessed Francis got up and said, 'Ease, brothers, 
and light a lamp/ And when it was lit, he said, 'Who was it 
who said, "I am dying"?* The friar answered, 'It is I/ And he 
said, 'What is the matter, brother? How are you dying?' And 
he said, 'I am dying of hunger.' 

The holy Father at once ordered food to be brought, and 
having great charity and discretion, he ate with him lest he 
should be ashamed to eat alone; and, at his wish, all the other 
friars joined them. For that friar and all the others were newly 
converted to the Lord, and used to discipline their bodies with- 
out restraint. After they had eaten blessed Francis said to the 
other friars, 'My brothers, everyone must consider his own 
constitution, for although one of you may be able to sustain 
his body on less food, I do not want another who needs more 
food to try and imitate him in this matter. Each brother must 
consider his own constitution and allow his body its needs, so 

42 



that it has the strength to serve the spirit. For while we are 
bound to avoid over-indulgence in food, which injures both 
body and soul, we must also avoid excessive abstinence, especially 
as the Lord desires mercy, and not sacrifice. 3 And he added, 'Dearest 
brothers, necessity and charity for my brother have moved me 
to act as I have done, and we have eaten with him lest he be 
ashamed to eat alone. But I do not wish to do so again, for it 
would be neither regular nor fitting. It is my wish and command 
that each of you is to satisfy his body as need demands and so 
far as our poverty allows.' 

For the first friars, and those who followed them for a long 
while, afflicted their bodies beyond measure by abstinence from 
food and drink, by vigils, by cold, by coarse clothing, and by 
manual labour. They wore iron bands and breast-plates, and 
the roughest of hair shirts. So the holy Father, considering 
that the friars might fall ill as a result of this as had already 
happened in a short time gave orders in Chapter that no friar 
should wear anything but the habit next his skin. 

But we who were with him bear witness that although he was 
discreet and moderate towards the brethren throughout his life, 
this was in order that they should never fall away from poverty 
and the spirit of our Order. Nevertheless, from the beginning 
of his conversion until the end of his life, the most holy Father 
was severe towards his own body, although lie was frail by nature 
and while in the world could not have lived without comfort. 
At one time, therefore, considering that the friars were exceeding 
the bounds of poverty and sincerity in food and other matters, 
he said to a number of friars as representing all the brethren, 'Do 
not let the brethren imagine that any concession is necessary to 
my own body. For since it is my duty to be a pattern and 
example to all the friars, I wish to have, and to be content with, 
scanty and very poor food, and to make use of all other things 
in the spirit of poverty, and to shun delicate food altogether/ 



43 



28 

How he made a concession to a sick fnar by eating grapes with him. 

ON another occasion, while blessed Francis was living in the 
same place, one of the friars, who was a spiritual man and an 
early member of the Order, was ill and very weak. As he looked 
at him, the holy Father felt great compassion for him. But 
because at that time the friars, both healthy and sick, were 
cheerfully regarding their poverty as plenty, and would not 
use or ask for medicines in sickness, but willingly accepted bodily 
privations, blessed Francis said to himself, 'If only this brother 
could eat some ripe grapes first thing in the morning, I think 
they would do him good.' 

And he acted on this idea, for he rose very early one day, 
and calling the friar to him privately, led him into a vineyard 
near the friary. Choosing a vine where the grapes were good 
to eat, he sat down beside the vine with the friar, and began to 
eat the grapes lest the brother should be ashamed to eat alone. 
And as they ate the friar was cured, and they praised God 
together. This friar remembered the compassion and kindness 
of the most holy Father for the rest of his life, and often used to 
tell the brethren about it with devotion and tears. 



29 

How he stripped himself and his companion to provide clothing for a 
poor old woman. 

AT Celano, one winter, blessed Francis had a length of cloth 
folded to form a cloak, which a friend of the friars had lent him. 
When an old woman came to him asking alms, he immediately 
took the cloth from his shoulders, and although it did not belong 
to him, he gave it to the poor old woman, saying, 'Go and make 
a garment for yourself, for you need it badly enough !' 

44 



The old woman laughed and was astonished whether from 
fear or joy I cannot say and took the cloth from his hands. 
Fearing that if she delayed he might take it back, she hurried 
away and cut up the cloth with shears. But when she discovered 
that the cloth was not sufficient for a garment, she put her trust 
in the kindness already shown by the holy Father, and told 
him that the cloth was not sufficient for a garment. 

The Saint looked at his companion, who was wearing a 
similar piece of cloth on his shoulders, and said, *Do you hear 
what this poor woman says ? Let us put up with the cold for the 
love of God, and give the cloth to this poor woman so that her 
garment can be completed.' And at once his companion gave 
her his own, just as blessed Francis had done. So both of them 
remained without a cloak in order that the poor woman might 
be clothed. 



30 

How he regarded it as robbery not to give a cloak to one who had 
greater need. 

ONCE when he was returning from Siena, he met a poor man 
on the road, and said to his companion, 'We ought to return 
this cloak to the poor man, whose it is; for we have accepted 
it as a loan until we should find someone poorer than ourselves/ 
But knowing how badly the generous Father needed it, his 
companion protested strongly that he should not neglect him- 
self to provide for someone else. But the Saint said to him, 
'I refuse to be a thief, for we should be guilty of theft if we 
refused to give it to one more poor than ourselves.* So the 
kindly Father gave away the cloak to the poor man. 



45 



31 



How he gave a cloak to a poor man on a certain condition. 

AT Celle di Cortona blessed Francis was wearing a new cloak 
which the friars had taken great trouble to obtain for him. But 
when a poor man came to the friary, weeping for his dead wife 
and poverty-stricken, bereaved family, the compassionate Saint 
said to him, 'I give you this cloak on condition that you part 
with it to no one unless he buys it from you and pays a good 
price.' Hearing this, the friars ran to take the cloak away from 
the poor man; but taking courage from the face of the holy 
Father, he clung to it with both hands. And at length the friars 
bought back the cloak, and paid a fair price for it to the poor 



man. 

32 



How, through the alms of Uessed Francis, a poor man forgave his 
injuries and abandoned his hatred for his master, 

AT Celle, in the lordship of Perugia, blessed Francis met a 
poor man whom he had formerly known in the world, and 
asked him, 'Brother, how are things with you?' But the man 
began to utter angry curses on his master, saying, 'Thanks to my 
master God curse him !~- 1 have had nothing but misfortune, 
for he has stripped me of all that I possess.' 

Seeing him persist in mortal hatred, blessed Francis was filled 
with pity for his soul, and said, 'Brother, pardon your master 
for the love of God, and free your own soul; it is possible that 
he will restore to you whatever he has taken away. Otherwise, 
you have lost your goods and will lose your soul as well.' And 
the man said, 1 cannot fully forgive him unless he first restores 
to me what he has taken away/ Then blessed Francis said to 
him, 'Look, I will give you this cloak; I beg you to forgive your 
master for the love of the Lord God.' And at once his heart was 

46 



melted and touched by this act of kindness, and he forgave his 
master his wrongs. 

33 

How lie sent a cloak to a poor woman who, like himself, suffered from 

her eyes. 

A POOR woman of Machilone came to Rieti to be treated for 
a disease of the eyes. And when the doctor visited blessed 
Francis, he said to him, 'Brother, a woman has come to me with a 
disease of the eyes, and she is so poor that I have to pay her 
expenses myself As soon as he heard this he was moved with 
pity for her, and calling one of the friars who was his Guardian, 
he said to him, 'Brother Guardian, we have to repay a loan/ 
'What is this loan?' asked the Guardian. And he said, 'This 
cloak, which we have borrowed from a poor, sick woman, and 
which we must return to her/ And the Guardian said, 'Do 
whatever seems best to you, Brother/ 

Then blessed Francis, with great merriment, called a friend 
of his who was a spiritual man, and told him, 'Take this cloak, 
and twelve loaves with it, and go to this poor woman with a 
disease of the eyes whom the doctor will point out to you. And 
say to her, "The poor man to whom you lent this cloak thanks 
you for the loan of it; take back what belongs to you." ' So 
he went and said to the woman all that blessed Francis had told 
him. But thinking that he was making a fool of her, she was 
nervous and embarrassed, saying, 'Leave me in peace; I don't 
know what you are talking about/ But he laid the cloak and 
the twelve loaves in her hands. Then, realizing that he was 
speaking in earnest, she accepted them with fear and reverence, 
rejoicing and praising the Lord. And afraid that they might be 
taken from her, she rose secretly by night and returned home 
with joy. But blessed Francis had arranged with the Guardian 
to pay her expenses daily as long as she remained there. 

47 



We who lived with him testify to the greatness of his charity 
and compassion towards sick and healthy alike, both to his own 
friars and to other poor folk. For after persuading us not to 
be upset, he used to give away to the poor with great inward 
and outward joy even his own bodily necessities, which the 
friars had sometimes obtained with great trouble and difficulty, 
thus depriving himself even of things that he badly needed. 
Because of this the Minister General and his Guardian told him 
not to give away his habit to any friar without their permission. 
For in their devotion to him the friars used sometimes to ask 
him for his habit, and at once he would give it; but sometimes 
he divided it and gave away a portion, retaining part for himself, 
for he wore only a single habit. 

34 

How lie gave away his habit to friars who asked it for the love of God. 

WHEN he was travelling through one of the Provinces preaching, 
two French friars met him. And having received great consola- 
tion from him, they finally begged his habit for the love of 
God. And as soon as he heard Tor the love of God/ he took off 
his habit and gave it to them, remaining unclothed for a good 
while. For when anyone invoked the love of God he would 
never refuse his cord, or habit, or anything that they asked. 
But he was very displeased, and often rebuked the friars, when 
he heard them use the words Tor the love of God' without good 
cause. For he used to say, "The love of God is so sublime and 
precious that it should only be mentioned on rare occasions 
and in great need, and then with great reverence.' 

But one of these friars removed his own habit, and gave it to 
him in exchange. Whenever he gave away his own habit, or 
part of it to anyone, he suffered great want and distress, because 
he could not obtain another or have it made quickly, especially 
as he always wished to have a shabby habit, patched up with 

48 



pieces of cloth, sometimes both inside and out. Indeed, he would 
seldom or never wear a new habit, but obtained an old habit 
from another friar. And sometimes he would obtain part of his 
habit from one friar, and part from another. But at rimes he 
used to line it inside with new cloth, because of his frequent 
illnesses and chills of the stomach and spleen. He observed this 
absolute poverty in clothing up to the very year in which he 
departed to the Lord. For, a few days before his death, since 
he was suffering from dropsy and almost dried up by his many 
ailments, the friars made him several habits, so that his habit 
could be changed night or day whenever necessary. 



35 

How he wished to give some cloth to a poor man secretly. 

ON another occasion a poor man came to the friary where 
blessed Francis was staying, and begged a piece of cloth from 
the friars for the love of God. When he heard of this, the holy 
Father said to one of the friars, 'Search through the house, and 
see if you can find any length or piece of cloth, and give it to 
this poor man.' But having gone around the whole house, the 
friar told him that he could find nothing. 

So in order that the poor man should not go away empty- 
handed, blessed Francis stole away quietly lest the Guardian 
should forbid him and took a knife. Then he sat down in a 
remote place and began to cut away part of his habit which was 
sewed on the inside, intending to give it to the poor man 
secretly. But the Guardian noticed him, and at once forbade 
him to give it away, especially as there was a hard frost at the 
time, and he was very frail and cold. So the holy Father said 
to him, If you do not want me to give the man this piece, you 
must make sure that some other piece is given to our poor 
brother.' And at the insistence of blessed Francis, the friars gave 
the poor man some cloth from their own garments. 



49 



Whenever he travelled about the world preaching, if any 
brother lent him a cloak, he would not accept it unless he was 
allowed to give it to any poor man whom he met or who came 
to him, if the voice of his own conscience told him that it was 
necessary to that person. He always went on foot, and only 
rode a donkey after he became ill. Only in the most pressing 
need would he use a horse; normally he refused to ride at all, 
and only did so a short while before his death. 

36 

How he told Brother Giles, before he was received into the Order, to 
give his cloak to a poor man. 

AT the beginning of the Order, when he was living at Rivo 
Torto with only two friars, a man named Giles, who became 
the third friar, came to him from the world in order to share 
his way of life. And when he had remained there for some days, 
still wearing his secular clothes, a poor man came to the place 
asking alms of blessed Francis. Turning to Giles, blessed Francis 
said to him, *Give this poor brother your cloak.' At once Giles 
gladly removed it from his back and gave it to the poor man. 
Then it became clear to him that God had imparted a new grace 
to his heart, since he had given his cloak to the poor man with 
great cheerfulness. So he was received into the Order by blessed 
Francis, and constantly advanced in virtue to the greatest 
perfection. 

37 

On the penance that he imposed on a friar who had wrongfully criticized 
a certain poor man. 

WHEN blessed Francis had gone to preach at a house of the friars 
near Rocca Brizzi, it happened that on the day he was due to 
preach, a poor, sick man came to him. Full of compassion for 

50 



him, he began to speak about the man's poverty and sickness to 
his companion. And his companion said to him, 'Brother, it 
is true that this man seems poor enough, but it may be that no 
one in the whole Province has a greater desire for riches/ He 
was at once severely rebuked by blessed Francis, and confessed 
his fault. Then the Father said to him, 'Are you ready to perform 
the penance that I give you?' 'I will do it willingly/ he replied. 
And he said to him, 'Go and remove your habit, and throw 
yourself naked at the poor man's feet, and tell him how you 
have sinned in speaking ill of him, and ask him to pray for 
you.' So the friar went and did all that blessed Francis had told 
him. Then he rose and resumed his habit, and returned to blessed 
Francis. And the Father said to him, 'Do you want to know 
how you sinned against him, and against Christ Himself? 
Whenever you see a poor man, remember Christ in Whose 
Name he comes, and how He took upon Himself our poverty 
and weakness. For this man's poverty serves us as a mirror, in 
which we should view and consider with pity the weakness and 
poverty of our Lord Jesus Christ, which He endured in His own 
body for our salvation.' 

38 

How he ordered a New Testament to be given to a poor woman, 
the mother of two friars. 

ANOTHER time, while he was staying at S. Mary of the Porzi- 
uncula, a poor old woman, who had two sons in the Order, 
came to the friary asking alms of blessed Francis. He immediately 
asked Brother Peter Catanii, who was then Minister General, 
'Have we anything to give our mother?' For he used to say 
that the mother of any friar was mother to himself and to all 
the friars. Brother Peter said to him, 'There is nothing in the 
house that we can give her, for she wants the kind of alms 
that can sustain her bodily needs. But in the church we have 

51 



a single New Testament, from which we read the lessons at 
Matins/ (For at that time the friars had no breviaries and few 
psalters.) So blessed Francis said to him, 'Give the New Testa- 
ment to our mother, so that she can sell it for her needs. I am 
sure that this will please our Lord and the Blessed Virgin better 
than if we were to read from it/ So he gave it to her. For it 
can be said and written of him as is read of blessed Job : Loving 
care has borne me company as I grew up from childhood, ever since I 
left my mother's womb. 

To us who lived with him it would be a long and very 
difficult task to write or describe not only what we have learned 
from others about his charity and kindness toward the friars 
and other poor folk, but what we have seen with our own eyes. 



52 



PART III 

ON THE PERFECTION OF HOLY HUMILITY AND 

OBEDIENCE IN BLESSED FRANCIS AND HIS 

FRIARS 



39 

Firstly, how he resigned his office as head of the Order, and appointed 
Friar Peter Catanii as Minister General 

IN order to preserve the virtue of holy humility, blessed Francis 
resigned the chief office before all the friars during a Chapter 
held a few years after his conversion, saying, *I am now as 
though dead to you. Look to Peter Catanii, whom you and I 
will all obey/ And falling to his knees before him, he promised 
him obedience and reverence. 

At this all the friars wept, and intolerable grief wrung deep 
groans from them when they saw themselves deprived of so great 
a Father in this way. But with eyes raised to heaven and Bands 
clasped, the blessed Father rose and said, 'Lord, I commend to 
Thee the family which hitherto Thou hast entrusted to me. 
Because of my infirmities which Thou knowest, sweetest Lord, 
I now entrust it to the Ministers, for I no longer have the 
strength to care for it. They shall render account to Thee in 
the Day of Judgement, O Lord, if any friar shall have perished 
through their negligence, bad example, or harsh correction.* 

Thenceforward until his death he remained subject to them, 
behaving himself more humbly in all things than any others. 



53 



40 



How lie gave up Ills own companion, not desiring to have any particular 

companion. 

ON another occasion he gave up all his companions to his 
Vicar, saying, 'I do not wish to appear alone in the privilege of 
having an especial companion of my own. Let the friars accom- 
pany me from place to place as the Lord shall move them.' 
And he added, 'Recently I saw a blind man who had only a 
little dog to guide him on his way, and I do not want to seem 
better than he/ 

For it was always his glory to renounce every trace of privilege 
and ostentation so that the virtue of Christ might dwell in him. 



41 



How the disloyalty of the Ministers caused him to surrender his office. 

ONCE, when asked by one of the friars why he had abandoned his 
charge of the friars and entrusted them into the hands of others as 
though they did not belong to him at all, he replied, 'My son, 
I love the brethren to the utmost of my power, but if they would 
follow in my footsteps I should love them still more, and would 
not make myself a stranger to them. For some of the superiors 
pull them in another direction, holding up to them as patterns 
the men of long ago, and disregarding my warnings. But what 
they are doing and the way in which they are now acting will 
appear more clearly in the end. 

And shortly afterwards, when he was burdened with severe 
illness, he raised himself in bed, and cried out in vehemence of 
spirit, 'Who are these who have torn my Order and my friars 
out of my hands? If I come to the General Chapter I will make 
my intention clear !* 



54 



42 

How he humbly obtained meat for the sick, and urged them to be 
humble and patient. 

BLESSED Francis was not ashamed to obtain meat for a sick friar 
in the public places of cities, but he warned those who were ill 
to endure want patiently, and not to create a disturbance when 
there was not sufficient food for their needs. 

So in the first Rule he caused this to be written: I beg my sick 
friars not to grow impatient in their infirmities, nor to complain against 
the Lord or the brethren, nor to insist on having medicines, nor to have 
an undue desire to liberate this swiftly-perishing body, which is the 
enemy of the soul. But let them give thanks for all things, that they 
may desire to be men such as God wills them to be; for those whom 
the Lord has predestined to eternal life He trains with the spur of 
scourges and infirmities. As He Himself says: 'It is those I love that 
I correct and chasten. 9 



43 

The humble reply of blessed Francis and blessed Dominic when they 

were both asked whether they were willing for their friars to become 

prelates in the Church. 

IN the city of Rome, when those two illustrious lights of the 
world, blessed Francis and blessed Dominic, were together in 
the presence of the Lord Cardinal of Ostia, who kter became 
Pope, and when each in turn had spoken sweetly of God, my 
Lord of Ostia at length said, 'In the primitive Church the 
pastors and prelates were poor men, burning with charity, not 
with greed. Why should we not choose bishops and prelates 
from among your friars, so that they may influence all the others 
by their witness and example?' 

Then there arose a humble and devout dispute between the 

55 



Saints as to which of them was to reply, for neither wished to 
take precedence, but each deferred to the other, urging him to 
answer. But at length the humility of Francis prevailed, in that 
he did not answer first, while Dominic also prevailed, in that by 
answering first he also humbly obeyed. 

So blessed Dominic said, 'My Lord, my friars have already 
been raised to a noble state if they will only realize it; and in 
so far as I am able, I will never permit them to obtain any 
shadow of dignity/ Then blessed Francis, bowing low before 
the Lord Cardinal, said, 'My Lord, my friars are called Minors 
so that they may not presume to become greater. Their vocation 
teaches them to remain in a humble place, and to follow in the 
footsteps of Christ's humility, so that by this means they may 
at last be exalted above others in the eyes of the Saints. So if 
you wish them to bear fruit in the Church of God, hold them 
to the observance of their vocation. And should they aspire to 
high pkce, thrust them down to their proper level, and never 
allow them to rise to any prelacy/ 

Such were the replies of the Saints, and when they had ended, 
the Lord of Ostia was much edified by the answers of both, and 
gave profound thanks to God. 

As they were both taking leave together, blessed Dominic 
asked blessed Francis if he would consent to give him the cord 
which he wore; but although he asked this favour out of love, 
blessed Francis refused it out of humility. At length Dominic's 
loving persistence prevailed, and having obtained the cord, he 
girded it beneath his habit and wore it devoutly from that 
rime on. 

Then each placed his hands between the hands of trie other 
and commended himself to him with the most affectionate 
regard. And blessed Dominic said to blessed Francis, 'Brother 
Francis, I wish that your Order and mine could become one, 
and that we could live within the Church under the same Rule/ 
When at length they had taken leave of one another, blessed 
Dominic said to those standing by, *I tell you in all truth that 

56 



every Religious should imitate this holy man Francis, so great 
is the perfection of his sanctity.' 

44 

How, in order to establish humility, he wished all the friars to serve 

lepers, 

FROM the first days of his conversion blessed Francis, like a wise 
builder, established himself with God's help on the firm rock 
of the perfect humility and poverty of the Son of God. And 
because of his own profound humility, he called his Order that 
of Friars Minor. 

So at the commencement of the Order he wished the friars 
to live in leper-houses to serve them, and by so doing to establish 
themselves in holy humility. For whenever anyone, whether 
noble or commoner, entered the Order, among the other instruc- 
tions given him, he was told that he must humbly serve the 
lepers and live with them in their houses, as was laid down in the 
Rule: Seeking to possess nothing under heaven save holy poverty, 
in which they will be nourished by the Lord with food for body and 
soul in this world, and in the life to come will attain the heritage of 
heaven. 

So he laid foundations both for himself and others on the 
deepest poverty and humility, for when he might have become 
a great prelate in the Church of God, he chose and willed to be 
humble, not only in the Church but among his own friars as 
well. For in his opinion and desire, this lowliness was to be 
his highest dignity in the sight of God and men. 

45 

How he wished the glory and honour of all his good words and deeds 
to be given to God alone. 

WHEN he had been preaching to the people of Terni in the town 
square, as soon as his sermon had ended, the bishop of the place, 

57 



who was a discerning and spiritual man, rose and said to the 
people, 'From the beginning, when our Lord planted and 
founded His Church, He has always enlightened it through 
holy men who have fostered it by word and example. But now 
in these latter days He has enlightened it through this poor, 
undistinguished and unlearned man Francis. Therefore love 
and honour our Lord, and beware of sin; for He has not dealt so 
with any other nation! 

When he had ended speaking, the Bishop came down from 
the place where he had preached and entered the Cathedral. 
And blessed Francis went up to him, bowed before him, and 
threw himself at his feet, saying, 'My Lord Bishop, I assure you 
that no man in this world has ever done me such honour as you 
have done me this day. For other men say, "This is a holy man," 
and attribute glory and holiness to me, rather than the Creator. 
But you are a discerning man, and have distinguished between 
the precious and the worthless.' 

For when blessed Francis was praised and called a saint, he 
used to answer such comments by saying: 'I am not as yet so 
secure that I might not have sons and daughters ! For if at any 
time the Lord were to deprive me of the treasure that He has 
entrusted to me, what would remain to me but a body and a 
soul, and even unbelievers have this? In fact, I am quite sure 
that if the Lord had granted a thief or an unbeliever as many 
great gifts as He has to me, they would have been more faithful 
to Him than I. For in a picture of our Lord and the Blessed 
Virgin painted on wood, it is the Lord and the Blessed Virgin 
who receive honour, while the wood and the painting claim 
nothing for themselves; in the same way a servant of God is 
a kind of picture of God, in whom God is honoured for His 
favour. But he may not claim any credit for himself, for in 
comparison with God he is less than the wood and the painting; 
indeed, he is nothing at all. Honour and glory are to be given 
to God alone; but to a man himself nothing but shame and 
sorrow as long as he lives amid the miseries of this world.' 

58 



46 

How until his death he wished to have one of his companions as his 
Guardian, and to live under obedience. 

WISHING to remain in perfect humility and obedience until 
death, he said to the Minister General a long while before this, 
'I would like you to transfer your own authority over me to 
one of my companions, whom I will obey in your place; for 
holy obedience is of such merit that I wish it to remain with me 
both in life and death/ And thenceforward until his death 
he had one of his own companions as his Guardian, and obeyed 
him in the place of the Minister General. He once said to his 
companions, 'The Lord has granted me this favour among 
others, that if a novice who had entered the Order this very 
day were assigned to me as Guardian, I would obey him as 
gladly as one who is senior and of long standing in the Order. 
For a man under authority should regard his superior not as a 
man, but as God, for love of Whom he is subject to him.' 
Later he said, *Did I so wish it, the Lord could make me more 
feared by my friars than any other Superior in the world. But 
the Lord has granted me the favour of desiring to be content 
with everything, as one who is of no account in the Order.' 

As he himself testifies, we who lived with him have seen 
with our own eyes how, when some of the friars did not provide 
for his needs, or spoke to him in a way that usually provokes a 
man, he at once went away to pray; and when he returned, he 
would not recall anything, nor did he ever say, * So-and-so 
did not please me,' or, 'So-and-so said this to me/ 

Persevering in this way of life, the nearer he drew to death, 
the more careful he was to consider how he could live and die 
in all humility and poverty, and in the perfecting of all virtues. 



59 



47 



On the perfect way of obedience which he taught. 

THE most holy Father used to say to his friars, 'Dearest brothers, 
carry out an order at once, and don't wait for it to be repeated. 
Don't plead or object that anything in a command is impossible, 
for if I were to order you to do something beyond your strength, 
holy obedience would not fail to support you/ 



48 

How he compared perfect obedience to a dead body. 

ONCE, while he was sitting with his companions, he voiced this 
complaint: 'There is hardly a single Religious in the whole 
world who obeys his superior well !' His companions at once 
said to him, 'Tell us, Father, what is the perfect and best form 
of obedience?' In reply he described true and perfect obedience 
under the simile of a dead body. 'Take up a dead body/ he 
said, 'and ky it where you will. You will see that it does not 
resist being removed, or complain of its position, or ask to be 
left alone. If it is lifted on to a chair, it does not look up, but 
down. If it is clothed in purple, it looks paler than ever. In 
the same way, one who is truly obedient does not question why 
he is moved, does not mind where he is placed, and does not 
demand to be transferred. If he is promoted to high office, he 
remans as humble as before, and the more he is honoured, the 
more unworthy he considers himself/ 

Whenever blessed Francis received direct and simple com- 
mands, rather than requests, he regarded them as commands 
under holy obedience. But he believed that the highest form of 
obedience, in which flesh and blood pkys no part, is to go among 
the unbelievers under the inspiration of God, either to help 

60 



one's fellow men or with a desire for martyrdom. He considered 
that to seek martyrdom was truly acceptable to God. 



49 

How it is dangerous to give an order under obedience too hastily, or to 
disobey an order given under obedience, 

THE blessed Father considered that an order under obedience 
should be given but seldom, and that it was a weapon not to be 
used in the first instance, but in the last resort. He said, 'The 
hand should not be laid on the sword too hastily.' He used to 
say that when a man has no pressing reason to delay, then if he 
does not quickly obey an order given under obedience he neither 
fears God nor respects man. Neither is anything more true tfcm 
this, for the authority to command in the hands of a person 
who uses it rashly is like a sword in the hand of an angry man. 
And who is more abandoned than a Religious who ignores or 
despises obedience? 

50 

How he answered friars who were persuading him to ask permission 
for them to preach freely. 

SOME of the friars said to blessed Francis, 'Father, do you not 
realize that sometimes the bishops will not allow us to preach, 
and make us wait around idle in one place for many days before 
we can preach the word of God? It would be better if you 
sought some privilege from the Lord Pope in this matter, for 
it concerns the salvation of souls.' 

He answered them with a stern rebuke, saying, 'You Friars 
Minor don't understand God's will, and won't allow me to 
convert the whole world in the way God wills. For first of all 
I want to convert the bishops by our holy humility and respect. 

61 



When they come to see our holy way of life and our humble 
respect for them, they will ask you to preach and convert the 
people. These things will draw people to your preaching far 
better than your privileges, which would only lead you into 
pride. 

'And if you are free from all avarice and can persuade the 
people to restore their rights to the churches, they will them- 
selves ask you to hear the confessions of their people; although 
you need not concern yourselves on this matter, for once they 
are converted, they will easily find confessors. For my part, 
the only favour that I ask of God is that I may never receive 
any favours from men. I wish to show respect to everyone, and 
by obedience to the holy Rule, to convert all men by my own 
example rather than by words/ 



51 

On the custom by which the friars in those days effected a reconciliation 
when one friar had offended another. 

HE used to say that the Friars Minor had been sent by God in 
these latest days to set an example to those who were shrouded 
in the darkness of their sins. He said that whenever he heard 
about the great achievements of holy friars who were scattered 
all over the world, he was bathed in the sweetest of perfumes 
and anointed with the virtue of precious unguents. 

On one occasion one of the friars happened to speak harshly 
to another in the presence of a nobleman of Cyprus. Direcdy 
he realized that his brother was somewhat distressed by this, he 
was angry with himself, and taking up some ass's dung, he 
put it in his mouth, and ground it with his teeth, saying, "The 
tongue that has poured out the poison of anger against my 
brother shall see what dung tastes like!' The nobleman who 
saw this was struck with amazement, and went away much 

62 




Leonard von Matt 



THE PORZIUNCULA 
^45 lY remains to-day 



edified; and thenceforward he placed himself and all his property 
at the disposal of the friars. 

All the friars observed a custom that whenever any of them 
said anything hurtful or offensive to another, he would at once 
throw himself to the ground and kiss the feet of the offended 
brother, humbly asking his pardon. The holy Father was very 
happy whenever he heard that his sons were setting examples of 
holiness of their own accord, and he lavished most acceptable 
blessings on friars who brought sinners to the love of Christ 
by word or deed. For he desired that his sons should bear a true 
resemblance to him in the zeal for souls that filled him so 
completely. 

52 

How Christ complained to Brother Leo, the companion of blessed 
Francis, about the ingratitude and pride of the friars. 

THE Lord Jesus Christ once complained to Brother Leo, the 
companion of blessed Francis: 'Friar Leo, I am grieved with 
the friars.' And Brother Leo replied, 'Why so, Lord?' And the 
Lord said, 'For three reasons. Firstly, because they do not recog- 
nize My blessings, which, as you know, I pour upon them so 
freely and abundantly, although they neither sow nor reap. 
Secondly, because they grumble and are idle all day long. And 
thirdly, because they often provoke one another to anger and 
do not return to love, nor do they pardon any injury that they 
receive.' 

53 

How he gave a true and humble answer to a Doctor of the Order of 
Preachers, who questioned him on a passage of Scripture. 

WHILE he was staying in Siena he was visited by a Doctor of 
Theology from the Order of Preachers, a man who was both 

63 



humble and sincerely spiritual. When he had discussed the words 
of our Lord with blessed Francis for some while, this Doctor 
asked him about the passage in Ezekiel: When I threaten the 
sinner with doom of death, it is for thee to give him word and warn him. 
And he said, 'Good Father, I know many people who are in 
mortal sin, and do not warn them of their wickedness. Will 
their souls be required at my hand?' Blessed Francis humbly 
answered that he was no scholar, so that it would be more 
profitable for him to receive instruction from his questioner 
than to offer his own opinion on Scripture. The humble Doctor 
then added, 'Brother, although I have heard this passage ex- 
pounded by various learned men, I would be glad to know 
how you interpret it,' So blessed Francis said, If the passage is 
to be understood in general terms, I take it to mean that a servant 
of God should burn and shine in such a way by his own life 
and holiness that he rebukes all wicked people by the light of 
his example and the devoutness of his conversation; in this way 
the brightness of his life and the fragrance of his reputation 
will make all men aware of their own wickedness.' 

Greatly edified, the Doctor went away, and said to the com- 
panions of blessed Francis, 'My brothers, this man's theology 
is grounded on purity and contemplation, and resembles a flying 
eagle; but our knowledge crawls along the ground on its belly/ 

54 

On preserving humility , and on being at peace with the clergy. 

BLESSED Francis wished his sons to be at peace with all men 
and to behave themselves humbly to everyone, but he showed 
them by his own words and example to be especially humble 
to the clergy. For he said, 'We have been sent to help the clergy 
in the salvation of souls, so that we may supply whatever is 
lacking in them. But men will not be rewarded according to 
their office, but their work. Remember, rny brothers, that the 

64 



winning of souls is what pleases God most, and we can do this 
better by working in harmony with the clergy than in opposi- 
tion. But if they obstruct the salvation of the people, vengeance 
belongs to God, and He will punish them in His own time. 
So obey your superiors, and let there be no wrongful jealousy on 
your part. If you are sons of peace, you will win both clergy 
and people, and this will be more pleasing to God than if you 
were to win the people alone and alienate the clergy. Conceal 
their mistakes and make up for their many defects; and when 
you have done this, be even more humble than before.* 

55 

Hoiv he humbly obtained the church of S. Mary of the Angels from 

the Abbot ofS. Benedict at Assist, and how he wished the friars always 

to live there and behave with humility. 

WHEN blessed Francis saw that the Lord willed to increase 
the number of the friars, he said to them: 'My dearest brothers 
and sons, I realize that God wills to add to our numbers. It 
seems good and godly to me that we should obtain from the 
Bishop, or from the Canons of S. Ruffino, or from the Abbot 
of S. Benedict some church where the friars may say their 
Hours, and have some poor little dwelling near by made of 
clay and wattle where the brethren may rest and work. For 
this place is not suitable or adequate for the friars now that the 
Lord wills to increase our numbers, especially as we have no 
church here where the friars can say their Hours. And if any 
friar were to die, it would not be fitting to bury him here or 
in a church belonging to the secular clergy/ And all the fiiars 
supported this suggestion. 

So he went to the Bishop of Assisi and put this request to 
him. But the Bishop said, 'Brother, I have no church to offer 
you/ and the Canons gave the same answer. Then he went 
to the Abbot of S. Benedict on Monte Subasio, and made the 

65 



same request to him. The Abbot was roused to sympathy, 
and took counsel with his monks; and guided by the grace and 
will of God, he granted to blessed Francis and his friars the church 
of S, Mary of the Porziuncula, which was the smallest and poorest 
church that they had. And the Abbot said to blessed Francis, *See, 
Brother, we have granted your request. But if the Lord causes 
this congregation of yours to grow, we wish this place to become 
the chief of all your churches.' His suggestion pleased blessed 
Francis and his brethren, and he was delighted with this place 
granted to the friars, especially since the church was named after 
die Mother of Christ, and was so poor and small. He was also 
happy that it was called the Porziuncula, which foreshadowed 
that it was destined to become the Mother-House and chief 
church of the poor Friars Minor, for it had been known by this 
name from earliest times. So blessed Francis used to say, "This 
was why the Lord willed that no other church should be given 
to the friars, and that the first friars should not build a new 
church or have any but this' ; for in this way an old prophecy 
was fulfilled by the coming of the Friars Minor. And although 
it was poor and nearly in ruins, the people of the city of Assisi 
and the whole district had for a long time held the church in 
great reverence. To-day their reverence is still greater, and 
grows day by day. 

So the friars at once went to live there, and the Lord added 
to their numbers almost daily. And the fragrance of their 
reputation spread marvellously through the Vale of Spoleto and 
many parts of the land. But in ancient times it had been called 
S. Mary of the Angels, because it was said that the songs of 
angels were often heard there. 

Although the Abbot and monks had made a free gift of the 
church to blessed Francis and his friars, he, as a good and ex- 
perienced master-builder, wished to establish his house that is, 
his Order on a firm foundation of absolute poverty. So each 
year he sent to the Abbot and monks a basket or jar full of little 
fish, known as lasche. This served as a reminder of their greater 

66 



poverty and humility, and of the fact that the friars were to 
possess no place of their own, or live in any place that was not 
the property of others, so that the friars had no right to buy or 
sell anything. But when the friars carried the fish to the monks 
each year, the monks used to give them ajar of oil, in recognition 
of the humility of blessed Francis who had done this of his own 
free will. 

Those of us who lived with blessed Francis testify that he 
solemnly affirmed that it had been revealed to him that the 
Blessed Virgin had a greater love for this church than for any 
others in the world, because of the many favours that God had 
granted there. So thenceforward he held it in the greatest 
reverence and devotion; and in order that the friars should 
always remember this in their hearts, he had it written in his 
Testament at his death that all friars should do likewise. For 
about the rime of his death he said in the presence of the Minister 
General and other friars: 'I wish to entrust and bequeath the 
friary of S. Mary of the Porziuncula to my brethren by my 
Testament, in order that it may always be held in the greatest 
reverence and devotion by the friars. Our earliest brethren 
always did this, and because this place is holy, beloved, and 
chosen before all others by Christ and the glorious Virgin, 
they preserved its sanctity by constant prayer and silence day 
and night. If they had occasion to speak after the close of the 
appointed silence, they did so with the greatest devotion and 
sincerity, and only on matters which concerned the praise of 
God and the salvation of souls. And if ever anyone began to 
talk unprofkably or idly although this seldom occurred he 
was at once corrected by another friar. 

'These brethren used to discipline their bodies with many 
fasts and vigils, with cold, nakedness, and manual labour. To 
avoid idleness they often helped the poor in their fields, and 
afterwards gave them the bread of die love of God. They 
hallowed the place with these and other virtues, and kept 
themselves in sanctity. But since those days, because friars and 

67 



kyfolk visit the place more often than before, and because the 
friars are less zealous in prayer and good works, and are more 
undisciplined in engaging in idle conversation and discussing 
worldly events than they used to be, the place is not held in so 
great a reverence and devotion as was customary hitherto, and 
as I would wish it to be.' 

Having said this, he ended with great fervour, saying, 'I wish 
this place always to be under the direct control of the Minister 
General and servant, so that he may exercise the greatest care 
and responsibility in providing a good and holy family for it. 
The clergy are to be chosen from among the better, more 
holy, and more suitable of the friars, who best know how to 
recite the Office and who are fully professed in the Order, 
so that both layfolk and the other friars may see and hear them 
gladly and with great devotion. The lay-brothers chosen to 
serve them are to be holy men, discreet, humble and honest. 
I do not wish anyone else, whether layfolk or friars, to enter the 
place, except the Minister General and the lay-brothers who 
serve them. The friars themselves are not to speak to anyone 
except the brothers who serve them and the Minister General 
when he visits them. Similarly, the lay-brothers who serve them 
are never to gossip with them or tell them worldly news, or 
anything that is not of benefit to their souls. I particularly 
desire that no one else shall enter this place, so that its purity 
and holiness may the better be preserved, and that nothing un- 
edifying be done or said there. Let the whole place be kept 
pure and holy with hymns and praises to God. 

*And whenever any of the friars shall pass away to the Lord, 
I wish the Minister General to send a holy friar from another 
house to take his place. For even if other friars have at times 
fallen away from purity and sincerity, I wish this place to be 
blessed, and to remain for ever as a mirror and holy pattern 
for the whole Order, and as a lamp burning and shining before 
the throne of God and of the Blessed Virgin. For the sake of 

68 



this place may God pardon the defects and faults of all the fiiars, 
and protect this Order, His little plant, for ever/ 

56 

On the humble reverence which he showed by sweeping and cleaning 

churches. 

ONCE while he was staying at S. Mary of the Porzitinaila 
and there were as yet few friars, blessed Francis went through 
the villages and churches round about the city of Assisi proclaim- 
ing and preaching to the people that they should do penance. 
And he carried a broom to sweep out churches that were dirty, 
for he was very grieved when he found any church not as clean 
as he wished. 

So when he had ended his sermon, he would always gather all 
the priests in some private place so that he would not be over- 
heard by layfolk, and speak to them about the salvation of souls, 
stressing in particular how they should take care to keep the 
churches and altars clean, as well as everything that concerned 
the celebration of the Divine Mysteries. 

57 

On the peasant who found him humbly sweeping a church; how the 
man was converted, entered the Order,, and Became a holy friar. 

ONCE blessed Francis went to a village church in the neighbour- 
hood of Assisi, and humbly began to sweep and clean it. A 
report of what he was doing immediately spread through the 
whole village, for the people were always happy to see him 
and even more happy to listen to him. But when a peasant 
named John, a man of wonderful simplicity, heard about it 
as he was ploughing in his field, he went to him at once and 
found him humbly and devoutly sweeping the church. And 

69 



he said to him, 'Brother, give me the broom; I would like to 
help you.' And taking the broom from his hands, he swept 
the rest of the church. 

While they were sitting down together, he said to blessed 
Francis, 'Brother, I have longed to serve God for a long time, 
especially since I have heard accounts of you and your friars, 
but I did not know how to find you. Now that it has pleased 
God that I should see you, I would like to do whatever you 
think best.' Recognizing his fervour, the blessed Father gave 
thanks to God, for at that time he had few brethren, and it 
seemed that the man's simplicity and purity would make him 
a good Religious. So he said to him, 'Brother, if you wish 
to join our life and society, you will have to strip yourself of 
all that you possess, so far as is right, and give it to the poor as 
the holy Gospel teaches. For all my friars who could do so 
have done the same.* 

Hearing this, the peasant at once went back to the field where 
he had left his oxen and untied them. And he led one of them 
to blessed Francis, saying, 'Brother, I have served my father 
and family for many years, and although my part of the inheri- 
tance is small, I would like to take this ox as my share, and give 
it to the poor as you think best.* But when his parents and 
brothers, who were still small, realized that he intended to leave 
them, they began to weep aloud, and uttered such pitiful cries 
of grief that blessed Francis was moved to compassion, for the 
family was large and they were simple folk. He said: 'Prepare a 
meal for us all, and let us eat together. And don't weep, because 
I am going to make you really happy.* So they prepared it at 
once, and all ate together with great joy. 

After the meal blessed Francis said to them, 'This son of yours 
wishes to serve God, and you ought not to be grieved at this, 
but very glad. It will bring you great honour and blessing in 
soul and body, both in the eyes of God and those of the world, 
for God will be honoured by your own flesh and blood, and 
all our friars will become your sons and brothers. I cannot 

70 



and may not return your son to you, for he is God's creature 
and wishes to serve his Creator, to serve whom is to reign. But 
in order to console you I want him to give you this ox as he 
would do to the poor, although he should have given it to other 
poor folk as the Gospel teaches/ And they were all comforted 
by the words of blessed Francis, and overjoyed that the ox was 
restored to them, for they were very poor. 

And because blessed Francis took the greatest delight in pure 
and holy simplicity, whether in himself or others, he imme- 
diately clothed Brother John in the religious habit and humbly 
took him as his own companion. Now John was so simple 
that he thought himself obliged to copy everything that blessed 
Francis did. So whenever blessed Francis stood to pray in church 
or anywhere else, he wanted to watch him so that he could 
follow his every movement. And if blessed Francis knelt, or 
raised his hands to heaven, or spat, or sighed, he did the same. 
When the Father noticed this, he took him to task with great 
amusement for simplicity of this sort. But he answered, 
'Brother, I have promised to do everything that you do, so I 
must imitate you in all things/ And blessed Francis was amazed 
and very pleased to find him so pure and simple. 

In due course Brother John made such progress in all virtues 
and good ways that blessed Francis and all the friars marvelled 
at his perfection. And after a few years he died in this state of 
holy virtue, and in later days blessed Francis used to tell the 
friars about his conversion with great joy, and spoke of him, 
not as Brother John, but as holy John, 



58 

How he punished himself by eating out of the same dish as a leper, 
because he had caused him humiliation. 

WHEN blessed Francis had returned to the church of S. Mary 
of the Porziuncula, he found Brother James the Simple there 

71 



with a leper who was covered with sores. For blessed Francis 
had entrusted this leper and all the others to his care, because 
he was like a doctor to them, and gladly handled their wounds, 
changed the dressings, and looked after them, for at that time 
the friars used to live in the leper-hospice. 

Blessed Francis reproved Brother James, saying, 'You should 
not take our brothers in Christ about in this way; it is not 
fitting for you or for them/ For although he wished to serve 
them, he did not want him to take those who were badly diseased 
outside the hospice, because people looked on them with such 
revulsion. But Brother James was so simple that he used to go 
with them from the hospice as far as the church of S. Mary, 
as though he was walking with the friars. And blessed Francis 
himself used to call the lepers 'brothers in Christ.' 

As soon as he had uttered these words, blessed Francis 
reproached himself, feeling that the leper had been put to 
humiliation by the rebuke given to Brother James. So wishing 
to make amends to God and the leper, he confessed his fault to 
Peter Catanii, who was Minister General at the time. And he 
said, e l wish you to confirm the penance that I have chosen 
to do for this fault, and ask you not to oppose me in any way/ 
*Do as you wish, Brother,* he replied. For Brother Peter so 
venerated and feared him that he would not presume to oppose 
him, although he often had cause to regret it. 

Then blessed Francis said, 'This is to be my penance: I am 
going to eat out of the same dish as my brother in Christ/ 
So when he sat down at table with the leper, a single dish was 
pkced between blessed Francis and the leper. Now the leper 
was covered in sores and repulsive, especially as die fingers 
with which he took pieces of food from die dish were shrivelled 
and bleeding, so that when he pkced them in the dish blood 
and matter dripped into it. Brother Peter and the other friars 
were gready shocked as they watched this, but dared not say 
anything because of their fear and reverence for the holy Father. 

The writer saw these things himself, and testifies to them. 

72 



59 

How he put devils to flight by humble prayer. 

BLESSED Francis once visited the church of S. Peter of Bovara 
near the castle of Trevi in the Vale of Spoleto, and with him 
went Brother Pacificus, who in the world had been known as 
*The King of Verse/ a nobleman and master of singers at the 
Court. But the church was deserted, and blessed Francis said 
to Brother Pacificus, 'Go back to the leper-hospice, for I would 
like to remain alone here to-night; but come back for me very 
early to-morrow/ 

So he remained there by himself, and when he had said 
Compline and other prayers, he wished to rest and sleep, but 
could not do so, for his soul grew afraid, his body trembled, 
and he began to experience diabolic temptations. So making 
the sign of the Cross he immediately left the church, saying, 
In the Name of Almighty God, I tell you devils that you may 
do to my body whatever our Lord Jesus Christ allows, for I am 
ready to endure anything. My own body is the worst enemy 
that I have, so that you will be taking vengeance on my own 
adversary and direst foe/ At once these temptations ceased, 
and when he had returned to the pkce where he had been 
lying, he fell into a peaceful sleep. 



60 

On the vision seen by Brother Padficus 9 and how he heard that the 
seat of Lucifer was reserved for the humble Francis. 

EARLY next morning Brother Pacificus returned and found 
blessed Francis standing before the altar in prayer. So he waited 
for him outside the choir, and himself prayed before the crucifix. 
And as he began to pray, he was caught up into heaven 
whether his spirit left his body I cannot tell and saw many 

73 



thrones set in heaven. One of these was more exalted and 
glorious than all others, adorned and glowing with all kinds of 
precious stones. As he admired its beauty, he began to wonder 
whose throne it might be; when all at once he heard a voice 
saying to him, "This was the throne of Lucifer, and the humble 
Francis shall sit on it in his place.' 

As soon as he returned to himself, blessed Francis came out 
to him, and immediately Brother Pacificus fell at his feet, 
folding his arms in the form of a cross. And gazing at him as 
though he were already seated on that throne in heaven, he 
said to him, 'Father, hear my petition, and ask God to have 
mercy on me and forgive my sins/ But blessed Francis stretched 
out his hand and raised him, knowing inwardly that Brother 
Pacificus had seen some vision during his prayer, for he seemed 
quite altered, and spoke to him not as though he were living in 
the body, but already reigning in heaven. And Brother Pacificus 
was unwilling to talk about his vision afterwards, but began to 
speak of other things. Later he said, 'Brother, what do you 
think of yourself?' And blessed Francis replied, 'I think that 
I am a greater sinner than anyone in this world/ And at once 
it came to the mind of Brother Pacificus, 'By this sign you can 
be sure that the vision that you have seen is true. For as Lucifer 
was cast down from that throne because of his pride, so blessed 
Francis will merit to be raised up and take his place on it 
because of his humility.* 



61 

How blessed Francis had himself led naked before the people with a 
rope tied round his neck. 

ONCE when he had recovered somewhat from a very grave 
illness, he felt that he had been rather self-indulgent during it, 
although in fact he had eaten very little. So although not yet 
recovered from quartan fever, he got up one day and had the 

74 



people of the town of Assisi called together in the square for a 
sermon. But after the sermon he asked the people not to leave 
the place until he returned. And he went into the Cathedral of 
S. Ruffino with many of the friars, and with Brother Peter 
Catanii, who had been a canon of that church and was chosen 
as the first Minister General by blessed Francis. And he ordered 
Brother Peter under obedience to do whatever he told him 
without argument. Brother Peter answered, 'Brother, I neither 
may or should desire anything or do anything either on your 
behalf or my own without your permission.' 

Then blessed Francis removed his habit, and told Brother 
Peter to fasten a cord round his neck and lead him naked in 
front of the people to the pkce where he had preached to them. 
He told another friar to take a bowl of ashes, and go up to the 
pkce where he had preached; and when they arrived, he was to 
throw the ashes in his face. This friar did not obey him, because 
of the deep compassion and pity that he had for him; but Brother 
Peter, however, took the cord fastened round his neck, and led 
him along as he had ordered. And as he went he wept aloud, 
and the other friars with him shed tears of compassion and 
grief. 

When blessed Francis had been led naked before the people 
to the place where he had preached, he said to them, *You, 
and all who have followed me in renouncing the world and 
entered the Order and life of the Friars, believe me to be a holy 
man. But I confess before God and you that during my illness 
I have eaten meat and stew flavoured with meat/ In their great 
devotion and pity for him, most of the people began to weep, 
especially as it was winter and bitterly cold, and he had not yet 
recovered from quartan fever. And they beat their breasts, 
accusing themselves, and saying, *We know that this saint leads 
a holy life, for he has reduced his body to the likeness of a living 
corpse by his abstinence and austerity ever since his conversion 
to Christ. And if he accuses himself with such remorse for having 
taken what was right and necessary for his body, what shall we 

75 



wretches do, who have spent our entire lives gratifying the 
desires of the flesh, and stall do so? 5 



62 

How he wanted everyone to know what comforts his body had enjoyed. 

ON another occasion, while he was living in a certain hermitage 
(Poggio Bustone] during the Fast of S. Martin (November 11 until 
the Eve of Christmas), he had eaten some food cooked in lard, 
because oil was very bad for him in his weakness. At the end 
of the fast, as he was preaching to a great crowd of people, the 
opening words of his sermon were, *You have come to me with 
great devotion, supposing me to be a holy man; but I confess 
before God and you that during this fast I have eaten food cooked 
ialard/ 

Whenever he was eating with layfolk, or when some delicacy 
had been prepared by the friars because of his weakness, he 
would usually publish the fact both inside and outside the house 
in front of any friars and layfolk who did not know about it, 
saying, 1 have eaten such and such food/ for he did not wish to 
conceal from man what was known to God. In the same way, 
in whatever place or company his spirit was tempted to pride, 
vainglory, or any other sin, he at once confessed it to them 
openly and without concealment. On one occasion he said 
to his companions, 'In any hermitage or other pkce where I stay 
I wish to live as though everyone could see me; for if they think 
me a holy man and I do not lead a life becoming to a holy man, 
I shall be a hypocrite.* 

When it was bitterly cold and one of his companions, who 
was his Guardian, wanted to sew a small piece of fox fur under 
his habit to protect his weak stomach and spleen, blessed Francis 
said, *If you want me to wear fox fur under my habit, I must 
wear a piece of fur outside, so that everyone may know that I 
am wearing it underneath as well.' So he had it made in this 

76 



way; but although it was very necessary to him, he seldom 
wore it. 

63 

How he accused himself of vainglory directly he had given alms. 

WHILE he was walking through the town of Assisi, a poor old 
woman asked alms of him for the love of God, and he 
immediately gave her the cloak from his back. And forthwith 
he confessed to those following him that he had felt vainglory 
in doing so. 

We have seen and heard so many other similar instances of 
his sublime humility that we who knew him well cannot relate 
them all, either in words or writing. But blessed Francis's chief 
concern was that he should not be a hypocrite in the eyes of 
God. And although dispensations were often essential because 
of his infirmities, he felt that he must always set a good example 
to the friars and to others; so he patiently endured every priva- 
tion in order to remove all grounds for criticism. 

64 

How he described the state of perfect humility in his own case. 

WHEN the time of the Chapter was approaching, blessed Francis 
said to his companion, It seems to me that I would not be a 
true Friar Minor unless I were in the state that I will describe 
to you. Suppose that the friars invite me to the Chapter with 
great respect and devotion, and touched by their devotion, I go 
to the Chapter with them. During the assembly they ask me to 
proclaim tie word of God and preach before them, so I rise 
and preach to them as the Holy Spirit moves me. Suppose that 
after my sermon they all cry out against me, saying, "We will 
not have you ruling over us! You have not the necessary 
eloquence, and you are too stupid and simple. We are very 

77 



ashamed to have such a simple and contemptible Superior over 
us; henceforward do not presume to call yourself our Superior !" 
So they depose me with abuse and contempt. It seems to me 
that I would not be a true Friar Minor unless I were just as 
happy when they abused me and deposed me in disgrace, 
unwilling that I should remain their Superior, as when they 
held me in respect and honour, for in either case their welfare 
and usefulness is my first desire. For if I was happy when they 
praised and honoured me in their devotion which may well 
be a danger to my soul I ought to rejoice and be far happier 
at the benefit and health brought to my soul when they abuse 
me, for this is a sure spiritual gain.' 



65 

How he humbly desired to visit distant Provinces, as he had sent other 

friars; and how he instructed the friars to go through the world humbly 

and devoutly. 

Ax the end of the Chapter, when many friars were sent to a 
number of Provinces overseas, blessed Francis remained behind 
with some of the friars. And he said to them, 'Dearest Brothers, 
it is my duty to provide a pattern and example to all the friars. 
So, as I have sent friars to distant lands to endure toil and abuse, 
hunger and thirst, and other hardships, it is only right, and 
holy humility requires, that I should likewise go to some 
distant Province. When the brethren hear that I am undergoing 
the same trials as they, they will bear their own hardships all the 
more patiently. So go and pray God that He will guide me to 
choose the Province where I can best labour to His glory, to 
the benefit of souls, and be a good example to our Order/ 

For whenever the most holy Father intended to go to any 
Province, he would first pray, and send the friars to ask God 
that He would guide his heart to go to whatever place was 

78 



most pleasing to Him. And at once he said to them with joy, 
*In the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ, of the glorious Virgin 
His Mother, and of all the Saints, I choose the Province of 
France, for it is a Catholic nation, and they show an especial 
reverence to the Body of Christ above other Catholics. This is a 
great joy to me, and because of this I will most gladly live among 
them/ 

Blessed Francis had such great reverence and devotion to the 
Body of Christ that he caused it to be written in the Rule that 
in every Province where the friars lived, they were to give much 
thought and care to this matter, and to plead, with priests to 
reserve the Body of Christ in worthy and fitting places; and if 
they neglected this, the friars were to do it themselves. 

He also wished it to be included in the Rule that wherever 
friars found the Name of our Lord or the words by which the 
Body of Christ is consecrated lying about in unseemly places, 
they were to gather them up and lay them in a seemly place, 
and by so doing honour our Lord in His words. And although 
he did not write this in the Rule because the Ministers did not 
think that the friars ought to be compelled to do this, he made 
his wishes clear to the friars on this matter in his Testament and 
other writings. Indeed, at one time he wished to send friars 
through all the Provinces carrying fair clean pyxes, and wher- 
ever they found the Lord's Body reserved unworthily, they 
were to place It in these pyxes with all honour. He also wanted 
to send friars through all Provinces with good new wafer-irons 
to make fine pure hosts. 

When blessed Francis had chosen the friars he wished to take . 
with him, he said to them, 'Take the road two and two in the 
Name of the Lord. Be humble and sincere. Keep silence from 
dawn until after Terce, praying to God in your hearts, and do 
not indulge in idle and unprofitable conversation. Although 
you are travelling, let your words be as humble and devout as 
in a hermitage or cell. For wherever we are, or wherever we 
go, we always take our cell with us; for Brother Body is our 

79 



cell, and our soul is the hermit who lives in it, constantly praying 
to God and meditating on Him. If the soul cannot remain quiet 
in its cell, then a cell made with hands is of little value to a 
Religious.' 

When he arrived in Florence, blessed Francis found there 
the Lord Ugolino, Bishop of Ostia, who later became Pope 
Gregory. When the Cardinal heard from blessed Francis that 
he proposed to go to France, he forbade it, saying, 'Brother, I 
do not want you to cross the Alps, for there are many prelates 
who would willingly damage the prospects of your Order at 
the Roman Court. But I and other Cardinals who love your 
Order will protect and support it all the more willingly if you 
remain within this Province/ 

Blessed Francis answered the Cardinal, 'My Lord, I should be 
very ashamed if I sent my brothers to distant Provinces, while 
I remained here without sharing any of the hardships that they 
have to suffer for God's sake.' As though in reproof, the Lord 
Cardinal said to him, 'Why have you sent your friars to such 
distant places to die of hunger and undergo other hardships ?* 
Moved by the spirit of prophecy, blessed Francis replied with 
deep fervour, 'My Lord, do you imagine that God has raised up 
the friars solely for the benefit of these Provinces? I solemnly 
assure you that God has chosen and sent the friars for the benefit 
and salvation of the souls of all men in this world. They will be 
welcomed not only in the countries of the faithful, but in those 
of unbelievers as well, and they will win many souls/ 

The Lord Bishop of Ostia wondered at his words, and 
admitted that he spoke the truth. And because he would not 
allow him to go to France, blessed Francis sent Brother Pacificus 
and many other friars, while he himself returned to the Vale of 
Spoleto. 



80 



66 

How he showed the friars how to win the souls of some bandits by 
humility and chanty. 

A PARTY of bandits who used to hide in the woods and rob 
travellers occasionally came for food to a hermitage of the 
friars situated above Borgo San Sepolcro. Some of the friars 
said that it was not right to give them alms, while others did so 
out of compassion, and urged them to repent. Meanwhile 
blessed Francis came to this friary, and the brothers asked him 
whether it was right to give them alms. And he said to them, 
'If you will do as I tell you, I trust in God that we shall win 
their souls. So go and bring some good bread and wine, and 
take it to the woods where they live. And shout to them, saying, 
"Brother bandits, come to us. We are friars, and are bringing 
you some good bread and wine !" And they will come at once. 
Then you must spread a cloth on the ground, place the bread 
and wine on it, and serve them humbly and gladly until they 
have eaten. After the meal speak to them of our Lord's words, 
and end by asking them for the love of God to grant your first 
request, which is to promise not to strike or injure anyone. For 
if you ask for everything at once, they will not listen to you; 
but because you are humble and loving they will promise this 
immediately. On a later day take them eggs and cheese with 
the bread and wine to show that you appreciate their promise, 
and serve them until they have eaten. And after the meal say 
to them, "Why do you stay here all day to die of hunger, and 
suffer so much hardship? And why do you do so many evil 
things, for which you will lose your souls unless you turn to 
God? It is better to serve God, for He will both supply your 
bodily needs in this world, and save your souls at the last." 
Then God will move them to repentance because of the humility 
and charity that you have shown them/ 

So the friars did everything that blessed Francis had told 

81 



them, and by the grace and mercy of God the bandits listened 
to them, and punctiliously observed all that the friars had 
humbly asked of them. Further, because of the friars 5 humility 
and friendship towards them, they themselves humbly began to 
serve the friars and carried logs up to the hermitage on their 
shoulders for them. At length some of the bandits entered the 
Order; the others confessed their crimes and did penance for 
their sins, laying their hands in those of the friars, and promising 
that henceforward they would live by their own kbour and 
never do such things again. 

67 

How he was beaten by devils, and thus knew that God was better 
pleased when he stayed in poor and humble places than with Cardinals. 

BLESSED Francis once went to Rome to visit the Lord Cardinal 
of Ostia. And when he had stayed with him for some days, he 
visited the Lord Cardinal Leo, who was greatly attached to him. 
Because it was winter, and utterly unfit for travelling on foot 
because of the cold, wind and rain, Cardinal Leo invited him to 
stay with him for a few days, and to receive his food from him 
as a beggar at the same time as other beggars who used to eat 
in his house every day. He said this because he knew that 
whenever blessed Francis was offered hospitality, he always 
wished to be treated as a beggar, although the Lord Pope and 
Cardinals welcomed him with the greatest devotion and rever- 
ence, and venerated him as a saint. And he added, If you wish, 
I will give you a good secluded house where you can pray and 
have your food/ Then Friar Angelo Tancredi, who was one 
of the first twelve friars and was also staying with the Cardinal, 
said to blessed Francis, 'Brother, near here is a spacious and 
secluded tower, where you could live as though in a hermitage/ 
When blessed Francis had seen it, he was pleased with it, and 
returning to the Lord Cardinal, he said, *My Lord, perhaps I 

82 



will remain with you for some days/ And the Cardinal was 
delighted. So Brother Angelo went and prepared a place in the 
tower for blessed Francis and his companion. And because he 
did not wish to leave the tower during his stay with the Car- 
dinal, Brother Angelo promised to bring up food to him and 
his companion each day. 

During the first night after blessed Francis had gone there 
with his companion, when he wished to sleep devils came and 
gave him a violent beating. Calling to his companion, he said, 
'Brother, devils have been giving me a violent beating; I would 
like you to stay with me, for I am afraid to remain alone/ And 
his companion stayed near him that night, for blessed Francis 
shook like a man with fever, so that both of them remained 
awake the whole night. Meanwhile blessed Francis said to his 
companion, 'Why have the devils beaten me? And why has 
God given them power to hurt me?' And he went on, 'The 
devils are God's constables, for just as the authorities send a 
constable to punish a wrong-doer, so does God correct and 
punish those whom He loves through the devils who are His 
constables and act as His servants in this office. Even a perfect 
Religious often sins in ignorance; consequently, if he does not 
realize his sin, he is punished by the devil so that he may realize 
and carefully consider how he may have sinned, whether in- 
wardly or outwardly. For in this life God leaves nothing un- 
punished in those whom He loves with a tender love. By the 
mercy and grace of God, I do not know whether I have offended 
Him in any way for which I have not atoned by confession and 
satisfaction. Indeed, God in His mercy has granted me the 
favour to receive in my prayer a clear knowledge of any way 
in which I please or displease Him. Perhaps He is now punishing 
me through His constables because, although the Lord Cardinal 
was glad to do me a kindness, and although rest is necessary to 
my body, rny brethren who go through the world suffering 
hunger and many hardships, and other brethren who live in 
squalid litde huts, may have grounds for complaint against me 

83 



when, they hear that I am lodging with a cardinal. They may 
say, "We are enduring many hardships while he is living in 
luxury !" But I am always obliged to set a good example, and 
this is why I was given to them. For the friars are more edified 
when I live among them in their poor little huts than when I 
live elsewhere; and they bear their own difficulties all the more 
patiently when they hear that I am bearing the same/ 

It was always the chief and constant concern of our Father to 
set a good example to us all, and to avoid any occasion for 
complaint from other friars. Because of this, whether in health 
or sickness, he suffered so greatly that whenever friars who knew 
him intimately as did we who were with him until the day of 
liis death read of or recall these sufferings, they cannot restrain 
their tears, and they all bear their own troubles and privations 
with greater patience and joy. 

So blessed Francis came down from the tower very early in 
the morning, and going to the Lord Cardinal, told him all that 
had happened and what he and his companion had endured. 
And he said to him, 'People think that I am a holy man, but 
devils have driven me out of the tower !' And although the 
Cardinal was delighted to have him, he knew and reverenced 
him as a Saint, and did not wish to oppose him once he had 
become unwilling to remain there. So blessed Francis bade him 
farewell, and returned to the hermitage of Fonte Colombo, near 
Rietu 

68 

How he rebuked friars who wanted to follow the path of prudence and 

learning and not of humility; and how he foretold the reform and 

restoration of the Order to its early state. 

WHEN blessed Francis was at the Chapter General held at S. 
Mary of the Porziuncula known as the Chapter of Mats, 
because the only shelters there consisted of rush-mats, which 
were used by five thousand friars a number of prudent and 

84 



learned friars went to the Lord Cardinal of Ostia who was 
present, and said to Mm, *My Lord, we wish that you would 
persuade Brother Francis to follow the advice of the wiser 
brethren, and allow himself to be guided by them.' And they 
quoted the Rules of Saint Benedict, Saint Augustine, and Saint 
Bernard, which lay down the principles of the regular life. 

The Cardinal repeated all that they had said to blessed Francis 
in the form of advice; but without making any answer he took 
the Cardinal by the hand and led him before the friars assembled 
in Chapter. And he spoke to the friars in the fervour and power 
of the Holy Spirit, saying, 'My brothers ! my brothers ! God 
has called me by the way of simplicity and humility, and has in 
truth revealed this way for me and for all who are willing to 
trust and follow me. So I do not want you to quote any other 
Rule to me, whether that of Saint Benedict, Saint Augustine, 
or Saint Bernard, or to recommend any other way or form of 
life except this way which God in His mercy has revealed and 
given to me. The Lord told me that He wished me to be a new 
kind of simpleton in this world, and He does not wish us to live 
by any other wisdom but this. God will confound you through 
your own prudence and learning. And I trust in the constables 
of God, that He will punish you through them. Eventually, 
whether you wish it or not, you will return with great remorse 
to your first state/ 

The Cardinal was utterly dumbfounded and said nothing; and 
all the friars were filled with great fear. 



69 

How he foresaw and predicted that learning would bring disaster on 
the Order, and how he forbade one of his friars to study the science of 

preaching. 

BLESSED Francis was very grieved whenever he found virtue 
neglected in favour of the sort of learning that brings pride, 

85 



especially if anyone was not persevering in the vocation to which 
he had first been called. He used to say, 'Friars of mine who are 
seduced by a desire for learning will find their hands empty in 
the day of trouble. I would rather have them grow stronger in 
virtue, so that when the time of trial comes, they will have God 
with them in their struggle. For a troublous time is coming 
when books will be no good for anything, and will be cast aside 
in windows and corners.* 

He did not say this because the study of Holy Scripture dis- 
pleased him, but to restrain all the friars from a useless pre- 
occupation with learning. He would rather have them excel in 
charity than in strange forms of knowledge. He already sensed 
that before long a time was coming when the corrupting 
influence of learning would bring disaster. He therefore appeared 
after his death to one of the friars who was over engrossed in 
the study of preaching to rebuke and forbid him. And he 
ordered him to study how to walk in the way of humility and 
simplicity. 



70 

How those ivho were to enter the Order in the coming time of trouble 

would be Messed, and those who were tested would be better than their 

predecessors. 

BLESSED Francis used to say, 'The time is coming when this 
Order, so dear to God, will be brought into such disrepute by 
the bad example of evil friars that its members will be ashamed 
to appear in public. But those who come to receive the habit 
of the Order in those days will be guided solely by the workings 
of the Holy Spirit: flesh and blood will not contaminate them, 
and they will be truly blessed by God. And although no noble 
works will be done by them because the love that enables the 
Saints to labour so fervently will have grown cold, they will be 

86 



assailed by tremendous temptations. But those who are found 
worthy in those days will be better friars than their predecessors. 
'But woe to those who maintain only an outward show and 
pretence of the Religious Life, who congratulate themselves, 
trusting in their own cleverness and knowledge, and are shown 
to be good for nothing. For they do not devote themselves to 
good works in the way of the Cross and of penitence, nor in the 
honest observance of the Gospel which their profession binds 
them to observe purely and simply. Men like these will not 
stoutly resist the temptations which God allows to test His 
chosen; but those who have been tried and approved will receive 
the crown of life, and the evil lives of the apostates will only 
spur them to greater efforts.' 



71 

Saint Francis's answer to a friar who asked why he did not correct 
the abuses that occurred in the Order in his own time. 

ONE of blessed Francis's companions once said to him, 'Father, 
forgive me, but I would like to speak to you about something 
that several of us have recently been discussing.' He went on, 
'You know how in earlier days, by the grace of God, the whole 
Order flourished in the purity of perfection; how all the friars 
were loyal to holy Poverty in all things with great fervour and 
strictness, in such things as small and humble dwellings and 
furnishings, and in few and poor books and clothes. Further- 
more, they had a common purpose and zeal in all outward 
things, and carefully observed all die obligations proper to our 
profession and vocation, and which are intended for the edifica- 
tion of all. So they were united in the love of God and their 
neighbour, and were truly apostolic and evangelical men. 

*But for some while now this purity and perfection has begun 
to decline, although many offer as an excuse the great number of 
the friars, saying that this is why they cannot observe this ideal, 

87 



Furthermore, many friars have become so blind as to Imagine 
that people will be edified and turned to devotion by their 
present ways rather than by the former, and they imagine that 
they are living more sensibly in this way. They despise and 
disregard the way of holy simplicity and poverty, which is the 
first principle and foundation of our Order. So we have been 
considering these things, and are quite certain that they are 
displeasing to you. But if they displease you, we cannot under- 
stand why you tolerate them and do not correct them.' 

Blessed Francis answered, 'Brother, God forgive you for 
wanting to criticize and oppose me, and to involve me in 
matters which no longer concern my office. As long as I held 
a position of authority over the friars, and they persevered in 
their vocation and profession, they were content with my feeble 
care, example and preaching, although from the beginning of 
my conversion I had always been a sick man. But later I con- 
sidered how the Lord had added to the number of the friars, 
and how, through lukewarmness and lack of zeal, they were 
beginning to turn aside from the right and sure way by which 
they had once walked. They entered on the broader way that 
leads to death, and did not hold to their vocation and pro- 
fession, nor were they willing to abandon this perilous and 
deadly road, despite my constant preaching, warning and 
example. Because of this I surrendered the rule and direction 
of the Order to God and the Ministers. But when I resigned the 
office of Superior, I explained to the brethren in General Chapter 
that my infirmities would no longer allow me to have charge of 
them. Yet, were they willing to live in accordance with my 
intentions, I would not wish them to have any other Minister 
but myself to comfort and help them until the day of my death. 
For once a good and faithful subject knows and obeys the will 
of his superior, the latter need have little anxiety about him. 
Indeed, I would be so happy at the good progress of the 
brethren both on their own account and my own that even 
if I were lying ill in bed I would not feel ashamed to fulfil this 



office for them, for the duties of a superior are entirely spiritual; 
that is, to overcome, correct and amend their faults by spiritual 
means. But since I am not able to correct and amend these 
things by my preaching, advice and example, I am not willing 
to become an executioner, and use punishment and flogging like 
the authorities of this world. I trust in the Lord that the unseen 
enemies of the friars, who are God's constables, will punish 
them in this life and the life to come, until they have taken 
vengeance on those who transgress His commandments and the 
vows of their profession. I hope that they will be reproached 
by the men of this world to their shame and disgrace, and as a 
result will return to their vocation and profession. 

'However, to the day of my death I will not cease to teach the 
brethren by my own good example and actions to follow the 
way which God has shown me, and which I have taught to 
them by word and example. So they will have no excuse to 
plead before God, and I shall not be summoned to account for 
them before God.' 

Here follows the account which Brother Leo, the companion and 

confessor of blessed Francis, wrote down for Brother Conrad ofOffida 

at San Damiano near Assist, saying that he had it from the mouth of 

Saint Francis himself. 

While blessed Francis was standing in prayer behind the pulpit 
in the church of S. Mary of the Angels with his hands upraised 
to heaven, he called upon Christ to have mercy on the people 
in the great troubles which were bound to come. And the Lord 
said, 'Francis, if you wish Me to have mercy on the Christian 
people, do this for Me: see that your Order remains in the state 
in which it was founded, for nothing but this will remain to 
Me in the whole world. And I promise you that, for love of 
you and your Order, I will not allow any troubles to come upon 
the world. But I warn you that the friars will turn back from 
this way in which I have set them, and will provoke Me to such 

89 



anger that I shall rise up against them. And I shall summon the 
devils, and grant them all the power that they have desired; and 
they will stir up such antagonism between the friars and the 
world that no friar will be able to wear the habit of your Order 
except in the woods. And when the world loses its faith, no 
light will remain save that of your Order, because I have set it 
as a light to the world.' 

And blessed Francis said, 'How will my brethren survive when 
they live in the woods ?' And Christ said, 'I shall feed them as I 
fed the Children of Israel with manna in the desert, for they will 
be good like them; and they will return to the original state in 
which your Order was founded and begun/ 



72 

How souls are converted by the prayers and tears of the humble and 

simple brethren* when they seem to be converted by the learning and 

preaching of others. 

THE most holy Father did not wish his friars to hanker after 
learning and books, but taught them to build their lives on holy 
humility, to practise pure simplicity and devout prayer, and to 
love Lady Poverty, on which the Saints and first friars had 
established themselves. He used to say that this was the only 
sure road to their own salvation and the edification of others, 
because Christ, "Whom we are called to follow, showed and 
taught us this way alone by His own teaching and example. 

Looking into the future, the blessed Father knew through the 
Holy Spirit, and often told the friars, that in the hope of edifying 
others, many would abandon their vocation, which is holy 
humility, pure simplicity, prayer and devotion, and the love of 
Lady Poverty. He said, 'Because they will think themselves 
more gifted, more filled with devotion, fired with love, and 
enlightened by divine knowledge through their study of the 

90 



Scriptures, that they will as a result remain inwardly cold and 
empty. Consequently, they will be unable to return to their 
first vocation, because they will have wasted the time when they 
should have been following this vocation in useless and mis- 
guided study. I fear that even the grace that they seemed to 
possess will be taken away from them, because they have 
completely neglected the grace that had been given them, which 
is to hold to and follow their true vocation/ 

He also said, "There are many brethren who devote all their 
energy and zeal to the acquisition of learning, neglecting their 
holy vocation, and straying from the way of humility and holy 
prayer both in mind and body. "When they have preached to 
the people, and learn that some have been helped or moved to 
penitence, they grow conceited and congratulate themselves as 
though the others' gain were their own. But they will have 
preached rather to their own condemnation and hurt, and have 
really achieved nothing except as the instruments of those 
through whom God has obtained this result. For those whom 
they imagined they were edifying and converting through their 
own learning and preaching have been edified and converted by 
God Himself through the prayers and tears of holy, poor, 
humble and simple brethren, although these holy men are not 
aware of it. For it is the will of God that they should know 
nothing of it, lest they become proud. 

'These friars are my Knights of the Round Table, who remain 
hidden in deserts and lonely places in order to devote themselves 
more completely to prayer and meditation, kmenting their own 
sins and the sins of others, living simply and behaving humbly, 
whose sanctity is known to God, and at times to other friars, 
but unknown to the world. When the angels present their souls 
before God, He will show them the fruit and reward of their 
labours, namely, the many souls that have been saved by their 
prayers and tears. And He will say to them, "My dear sons, 
these souls have been saved by your prayers, tears, and example, 
and since you have been faithful over little things, I have great things 

91 



to commit to your charge. Other men have preached and laboured 
with their words of wisdom and learning, but through your 
merits, I have brought about the fruit of salvation. So receive 
the reward of your labours and the fruit of your merits, which 
is an everlasting kingdom gained by your humility and sim- 
plicity, and by the power of your prayers and tears." And bearing 
their sheaves with them, that is, the fruit and merit of their holy 
humility and simplicity, these holy brethren will enter into the 
joy of the Lord with joy and exultation. 

'But those who have cared for nothing except to know and 
point out the way of salvation to others, and have made no effort 
to follow it themselves, will stand naked and empty-handed 
before the judgement-seat of Christ, bearing only the sheaves 
of confusion, shame, and grief. Then shall truth of holy humility 
and simplicity, of holy prayer and poverty, which is our voca- 
tion, be exalted, glorified, and proclaimed; the truth which those 
who were swollen with the wind of their learning betrayed by 
their own lives and by the words of their empty learning, saying 
that truth was falsehood, and blindly and cruelly persecuting 
those who walked in the truth. In that day the error and falsity 
of the opinions in which they lived which they proclaimed as 
truth, and by which they have thrust many people into a pit of 
darkness mil be finally exposed in grief, confusion, and shame. 
And they themselves, together with their misguided opinions, 
will be cast into outer darkness with the spirits of darkness/ 

Commenting on the passage, See how at last the barren womb 
bears many, and the fruitful mother is left to languish, blessed Francis 
used to say, 'The barren represents the good Religious, simple, 
humble, poor, and despised, who edifies others at all times by 
his holy prayers and virtues, and brings forth fruit with groans 
of sorrow/ He often used to say this to the Ministers and other 
friars, especially in General Chapter. 



92 



73 

How he taught and wished that superiors and preachers should occupy 
themselves in prayer and in humble tasks. 

FRANCIS, the faithful servant and perfect imitator of Christ, 
feeling himself wholly united to Christ through the virtue of 
holy humility, desired this humility in his friars before all other 
virtues. And in order that they might love, desire, acquire, and 
preserve it, he gave them constant encouragement by his own 
example and teaching, and particularly impressed this on the 
Ministers and preachers, urging them to undertake humble tasks. 
He used to say that they must not allow the duties of high 
office or the responsibility of preaching to stand in the way of 
holy and devout prayer, going out for alms, doing manual 
labour when required, and carrying out other humble duties 
like the rest of the brethren, both as a good example and for the 
good of their own and others' souls. He said, 'The friars under 
obedience are much edified when their Ministers and preachers 
gladly devote their time to prayer, and apply themselves to 
humble and undistinguished tasks. Unless they do this they 
cannot admonish other friars without embarrassment, injustice, 
and self-condemnation; for if we follow Christ's example, we 
must act rather than teach, and our acting and teaching must go 
together.' 

74 

How he taught the friars to know when he was God's servant and 
when he was not. 

BLESSED Francis once called together a large number of friars 
and said to them, *I have asked God to show me when I am His 
servant and when I am not; for I have no wish to Eve except as 
His servant. And in His mercy the most gracious Lord has given 
me this answer: "You may know that you are My servant when 

93 



your thoughts, words, and actions are holy." So I have called 
you together, my brothers, and disclosed this to you, so that 
whenever you see me lacking in all or any of these respects I 
may be put to shame in your eyes.' 

75 

How he particularly wanted all the friars to dp manual labour from 
time to time. 

HE used to say that brethren who were lacking in zeal and 
unwilling to apply themselves simply and humbly to any work 
would quickly be spewed out of God's mouth. No idler could 
appear before him without at once receiving a sharp rebuke, for 
he, who was the pattern of all perfection, worked humbly with 
his own hands, and never allowed God's best gift of rime to be 
wasted- 
He said, 'I wish all my brethren to work and to occupy them- 
selves humbly in good works, so that we do not become a 
burden to other men, or allow our hearts aad tongues to wander 
in idleness. So those who do not know a trade are to learn one/ 
But he said that the profit and payment for work was not to 
be received by the workers but by the Guardians, who were 
to use it at their discretion for the good of the community. 



94 



PART IV 

ON HIS ZEAL FOR THE OBSERVANCE OF THE RULE, 
AND FOR THE ORDER AS A WHOLE 

76 

Firstly , how he praised those who observed the Rule, and wished the 
friars to know the Rule, discuss it, and die in it. 

BLESSED Francis, who observed the Holy Gospel perfectly and 
zealously, earnestly desired that all friars should observe the 
Rule, which itself is nothing other than a perfect observance of 
the Gospel; and he gave his especial blessing to those who are, 
and wiE be, zealous in this. 

He used to tell his followers that our profession was the book 
of life, the hope of salvation, the pledge of glory, the heart of 
the Gospel, the way of the cross, the state of perfection, the key 
of paradise, and the compact of the eternal covenant He wanted 
the Rule to be understood and accepted by all, and wished the 
friars to discuss it in their conferences, and meditate on it fre- 
quently by themselves, in order to remind them of their guiding 
vows. He also taught them that the Rule should be always 
before their eyes, as a reminder of the life they should lead and 
had bound themselves to follow. And, in addition, he wished 
and taught the friars that they should die with it before them. 

77 

On a holy lay-brother who was martyred holding the Rule 
in his hands. 

ONE of the lay-brothers, whom we firmly believe to have been 
admitted into the choir of Martyrs, did not forget this sacred 

95 



ordinance and command of our blessed Father. For when he 
went among the Saracens in his desire for martyrdom, and 
while he was being led to martyrdom by the unbelievers, he 
held the Rule in both hands with great fervour. And he knelt 
down humbly before his companion and said, 'Dearest brother, 
I confess myself guilty, before the eyes of the Divine Majesty 
and before you, of all the offences that I have committed against 
this Rule/ 

After this short confession the sword fell and ended his life, 
and he attained the crown of martyrdom. This man had entered 
the Order so young that he could hardly bear the fasts imposed 
by the Rule, but w r hile still a boy he had worn a breastplate 
next to his body. Happy young man, who began so happily, 
and ended his life even more happily ! 



78 

How he wished the Order always to remain under the protection and 
discipline of the Church. 

BLESSED Francis said, *I will go and entrust the Order of Friars 
Minor to the holy Roman Church. The rod of her authority 
will daunt and restrain those who wish it ill, and the sons of 
God will everywhere enjoy full freedom to pursue their eternal 
salvation. Let her sons acknowledge the kindly blessings of their 
Mother, and embrace her sacred feet with particular devotion. 

'Under her protection no harm will come upon the Order, and 
the son of Satan will not trample over the vineyard of the Lord 
with impunity. Our holy Mother will herself imitate the glory 
of our poverty, and will not permit our observance of humility 
to be overshadowed by the cloud of pride. She will preserve 
unimpaired the bonds of love and peace that exist between us, 
and will impose her gravest censure on the unruly. The sacred 
observance of evangelical poverty will ever flourish before her, 



and she will never allow the fragrance of our good name and 
holy life to be destroyed.* 



79 



The four privileges granted by Gd to tne Order and revealed to 
Saint Francis. 

BLESSED Francis said that God had granted him four privileges, 
and made them known to him by an angel. These were: that 
the Order and profession of Friars Minor would endure until the 
Day of Judgement; that no one who deliberately persecuted the 
Order would live long; that no wrong-doers, who intended to 
live an evil life in the Order, would be able to remain in it for 
long; and that anyone who sincerely loved the Order, however 
great a sinner, would obtain mercy at the last. 

80 

On the qualities required in the Minister General and his colleagues. 

So great was his zeal to maintain perfection in the Order, and 
so vital did he consider the perfect observance of the Rule, that 
he often wondered who might be suitable to govern the whole 
community after his death, and with God's help to maintain it 
in perfection; but he could not think of anyone. 

Not long before his death, one of the friars said to him, 
'Father, you will soon depart to God, and this family which has 
followed you will remain in this vale of tears. Give us some 
indication, therefore, if you know of any member of the Order 
in whom you have confidence, and on whom the burden of the 
Minister Generalship might worthily be laid/ 

Breaking into frequent sighs as he spoke, blessed Francis 
replied, *My son, I do not know of any leader suitable for so 
great and varied an army, or any shepherd for so vast and 

97 



scattered a flock. But I will describe the qualities that the leader 
and shepherd of this family should possess. Such a man should 
be sober living, very discreet, of excellent reputation, and 
without personal attachments, so that he does not cause dissension 
in die Order by showing favour to individuals. He should be 
a lover of prayer, so that he will divide his time between the 
needs of his own soul and those of his flock. Early in the morning 
he should place the most holy Sacrifice of the Mass before all 
else, and spend much time at his devotions, lovingly commend- 
ing himself and Ms flock to the protection of God. But when 
his prayer is ended, he should place himself at the disposal of the 
brethren and invite questions, answer their inquiries, and attend 
to the needs of all with charity, patience, and courtesy. 

*He should not be a respecter of persons, and should devote as 
much attention to the simple and ignorant as to the wise and 
learned. Should he be granted the gift of learning, let him 
nevertheless show evidence of piety and simplicity, patience and 
humility in his behaviour. Let him foster these virtues in 
himself as well as in others, constantly exercising them in 
practice and inspiring others to do so by example rather than by 
words. He should loathe money, which is the chief corrupter 
of our profession and perfection. Being the head and example 
of die Order, he should be imitated by all, so let him never be 
engrossed in finances. 

*His habit and breviary should be sufficient possessions for him ; 
others can take care of his pen-case, quill, papers and seal. He 
should not collect books or be absorbed in much study, lest the 
time given to this detract from his proper duties. He should give 
devout comfort to those in trouble, for he is the ultimate resort 
of the distressed; for if they cannot obtain healing remedies 
from him, the disease of despair will overpower the afflicted. 
He should show mildness in order to bend the unruly to gende- 
ness, and forego some of his own rights if it will win a soul. 
He should show pity to those who desert die Order, as to sheep 
who have perished, and never refuse mercy to them, realizing 



that temptations that could drive them to such a fall must have 
been overwhelming, and that were God to permit him to be 
tested in the same way, he might himself fall into an even 
deeper pit. 

1 would have the Minister General, as Vicar of Christ, to be 
held in the greatest devotion and reverence by all, and his needs 
supplied with all goodwill in so far as our humble way of life 
allows. But he must not delight in honours, or be more pleased 
to receive favours than injuries; honours must not alter his way 
of life except for the better. Should he need better or more 
palatable food on occasion, he is not to take it in private but in 
public, so that others who are sick or frail may not be 
embarrassed when they need similar concessions. 

It is his particular duty to examine the secrets of the con- 
science, and to extract the truth from where it lies hidden. Let 
him at first regard all accusations as suspect, until truth begins 
to appear after careful inquiry. He should not pay attention to 
garrulous people, and when they accuse others he should treat 
them with particular reserve, and should not believe them too 
readily. He should be a man who would never betray or relax 
the proper forms of justice and equity in a desire to retain 
personal regard. He must at the same time take care that no 
soul is destroyed by excessive severity, that sloth is not aroused 
by undue lenience, or discipline undermined by careless indul- 
gence. In this way he will be feared by all, and loved by those 
who fear him. But he should always remember and feel that 
his office of authority is a burden to him rather than an honour. 

1 would like him to have as colleagues men of recognized 
honesty, who are firmly opposed to luxury, resolute in difficulty, 
kind and understanding to offenders, and having an equal 
affection for all. Men who take no reward for their work but 
their bare bodily needs, and who seek nothing but the glory of 
God, the welfare of the Order, the good of their own souls, and 
the well-being of all the brethren. Men who are agreeable to 
all whom they meet, and receive all who come to them with 

99 



holy joy, demonstrating the ideal and observance of the Gospel 
and the Rule purely and simply in their own lives. 

'This is the kind of man/ he said, *who should be Minister- 
General of this Order, and these are the kind of colleagues that 
he ought to have.' 

81 

How God spoke to him when he was greatly distressed by friars who 
were falling away from perfection. 

BECAUSE of the boundless zeal that he had at all times for the 
perfection of the Order, he was naturally distressed whenever he 
heard of or saw any imperfection in it. And beginning to realize 
that some of the friars were setting a bad example in the Order, 
and had begun to decline from the highest ideals of their pro- 
fession, his heart was moved to the deepest grief, so that he once 
said to our Lord in prayer, 'Lord, I return to You the family 
which You have given me !' And at once the Lord answered 
him, 'Tell Me, O simple and ignorant little man, why are you 
so distressed when some brother deserts the Order, and when 
the friars do not follow the way that I have showed you? Tell 
Me, Who has founded this Order of friars? Who turns men to 
penitence? Who gives them grace to persevere in it? Is it not 
I? I have not chosen you to rule My family because you are a 
learned and eloquent man, for it is not My will that you or 
those who were true friars and true observants of the Rule 
should walk by the way of learning and eloquence. I have 
chosen you, a simple and unlearned man, so that both you and 
the others may realize that I will watch over My flock. And I 
have appointed you as a sign to them, in order that the things 
that I have performed in you may also be performed in them. 
For those who walk in the way that I have showed you possess 
Me, and shall possess Me even more fully; but those who walk 
by another way will be stripped of even what they seemed to 

100 



possess. I tell you, therefore, do not be too distressed about the 
others, but continue to do as you are doing, and to work as yon 
are working, for I have established the Order of friars in ever- 
lasting love. Rest assured that I have so great a love for the 
Order that if any brother returns to his own vomit and dies 
outside the Order, I will send another friar into the Order to 
win a crown in his place; and if such a friar has not been born, 
I will cause him to be born. And in order that you may know 
how sincerely I love the life and Order of the friars, I promise 
that were there only three friars remaining in the entire Order, 
it would still be My Order, and I will not abandon it to all 
eternity.* 

And when he had heard these things, his soul was marvellously 
comforted. 

And although, in his constant zeal for the perfection of the 
Order, he was not entirely able to restrain his vehement grief 
when he heard of any fault committed by the friars, through 
which a bad example or scandal might arise, after he had been 
comforted by the Lord in this way he called to mind the words 
of the psalm : Never will I retract my oath to give Thy just commands 
observance. He said, 1 have vowed to observe the Rule which 
the Lord Himself gave to me and to those who desire to follow 
me. And all these friars have vowed themselves to this as I have 
done. So now that I have laid down my responsibility for the 
brethren because of my infirmities and for other weighty 
reasons, I am not bound to do anything other than pray for the 
Order and show the friars a good example. For God has shown 
me, and I know it to be true, that if my infirmities did not excuse 
me, the greatest assistance that I could give to the Order would 
be to spend each day in prayer for it to God, Who governs, 
preserves, and maintains it. For I have bound myself before 
God and the brethren, that if any friar should perish through 
my bad example, I should be obliged to render account to God 
for him/ 

These were the words that he used to repeat inwardly to 

101 



quieten Ms heart, and he often expounded them to the friars 
during addresses and Chapters. So if any friar ever told him 
that he ought to intervene in the government of the Order, he 
would reply, 'The friars already have their Rule, and they have 
vowed to observe it. And after God had been pleased to appoint 
me as their superior, I vowed before them that I would observe 
it myself, so that they would not be able to plead any excuse on 
my account. The friars already know what to do, and what to 
avoid, so that no duty remains for me except to set them an 
example by my own actions. This is why I have been given to 
them, both during my life and after my death/ 



82 

On the special devotion that he had for S. Mary of the Angels, 
and the rules that he made against idle conversation there. 

As long as he lived he always had an especial zeal and desire to 
preserve the most perfect life and conversation in the holy house 
of S. Mary of the Angels above all other houses of the Order, 
because it was the head and mother of the entire Order. He 
intended and desired this place to be the very pattern and 
example of humility, poverty, and evangelical perfection to all 
other houses, and wished the friars living in it always to be more 
careful and thoughtful than others, both in avoiding evil and in 
doing everything which tends to the perfect observance of the 
Rule. 

So in order to avoid idleness which is the root of all evils, 
especially in a Religious he once ordained that each day after 
their meal the friars should join him in some kind of work, so 
that they should not wholly or partly lose the benefit gained in 
time of prayer by useless and idle conversation, to which men 
are particularly prone after meals. 

He also laid down and firmly ordered it to be observed, that 
if any friar walking with or working among the others uttered 

102 



any idle remark, he was obliged to recite one Our Father and to 
say the Praises of God at the beginning and end of this prayer. 
Should he realize what he had done and confess his fault, he was 
to say the Our Father and Praises for his own soul. But if he were 
first rebuked by another friar, he was to say them for the soul 
of the friar who had corrected him. Similarly, if the guilty friar 
made excuses or refused to say the Our Father, he would be 
required to say it twice for the soul of the friar who had corrected 
him. But if, on his own evidence and that of another, it was 
established that he had gossiped, he was required in addition to 
say the Praises at the beginning and end of his prayer in a loud 
voice, so as to be heard and understood by all the friars near by; 
and while he was saying it, the other friars were to stand and 
listen. If any friar heard another passing idle remarks and kept 
silent without correcting him, he was required to say the Our 
Father and the Praises for the soul of the other friar. And any 
friar who entered a cell or house and found another of the 
brethren there was at once to praise and bless God devoutly. 

The most holy Father was always careful to say these Praises 
himself, and taught them to the other friars with fervent will 
and desire; and he encouraged them to say the Praises reverently 
and devoutly. 

83 
How he told the friars never to leave S. Mary of the Angels. 

ALTHOUGH blessed Francis was aware that the kingdom of heaven 
was established in every place on earth, and believed that the 
grace of God could everywhere be given to the faithful, he had 
learned from experience that S. Mary of the Angels was filled 
with richer grace and often visited by celestial spirits. So he often 
said to the friars, 'My sons, see that you never abandon this 
place ! If you are driven out of one door, re-enter by another, 
for this place is holy indeed; it is the dwelling-place of Christ 
and His Virgin Mother. When we were few, it was here that 

103 



the Most High increased us; it was here that He illumined the 
souls of His poor ones with the light of His wisdom; it was here 
that He kindled our desires with the fire of His love. Whosoever 
prays here with a devout heart shall obtain whatever he asks, 
while an evil-doer shall receive heavier punishment. 

*My sons, regard this place as most worthy of all reverence 
and honour as the true dwelling-place of God, especially dear 
to Him and to His Mother. Glorify God the Father, and His 
Son Jesus Christ our Lord in the unity of ttte Holy Spirit in this 
place with all your hearts and with the voice of praise and 
confession.* 



84 



The favours granted by God in S. Mary of the Angels. 

HOLY of Holies is this place of pkces, 
Rightly deemed worthy of the highest honours ! 
Happy its surname *of the holy Angels,* 
Happier its dedication to *Saint Mary* : 
And now the third name of 'The little Portion* 
Foretells the Mother-House of all the Order. 
Here the fair presence of the holy Angels 
Sheds light around it, filling it with splendour; 
Here in the long night-watches of the brethren 
Praises soar upwards, piercing the heavens. 
Once long abandoned, fallen into ruin, 
Francis restored it to its former honour; 
Of the three churches which the holy Father 
Raised with his own hands, this is best and dearest. 
This place our Father chose for his own dwelling, 
Here in stern penance clad his limbs in sack-cloth, 
Subdued his body and its errant passions, 
Made it obedient to the spirit's bidding. 
This holy temple God chose as the birthplace 
104 



Of the Friars Minor, humble, poor, and joyful, 
While the example of the holy Father 
Drew, a great army, walking in his footsteps. 
Here for the tonsure of her golden tresses 
Came the sweet virgin Clare, the spouse of Jesus, 
Casting behind her all the pomps and pleasures 
Loved by the worldly, and embracing penance. 
Here did the Orders of the Friars and Ladies 
Spring into being, born of one fair Mother, 
Mary most holy, who in her new offspring 
Gave to the world new patterns of her First-born. 
Here the broad highway of the old world changed 
Into the narrow way to life eternal; 
And to the faithful, called from every nation, 
New grace was given freely by the Father. 
Here was the Holy Rule to guide the Order 
Written by Francis; Poverty exalted; 
Pride was cast headlong, and the Cross upraised 
Once more among us for the world's salvation. 
Whenever Francis, worn and frail in body, 
Weary in spirit, sought for rest and comfort, 
In the sweet silence of this sanctuary 
Here he found healing, comfort, and refreshment. 
And when the Devil doubting and confusion 
Sowed hi his spirit, here was Truth revealed; 
Here, too, was granted to the holy Father 
All that he asked for in his intercession. 



105 



PART V 

ON HIS ZEAL FOR THE PERFECTION OF THE 
FRIARS 



85 

Firstly, how he described the perfect friar. 

THE most blessed Father, having in some degree transformed 
the friars into saints by the ardour of his love and by the fervent 
zeal for thek perfection which fired him, often pondered on the 
virtues that ought to adorn a good Friar Minor. He used to say 
that a good Friar Minor should imitate the lives and possess the 
merits of these holy friars: the perfect faith and love of poverty 
of Brother Bernard; the simplicity and purity of Brother Leo, 
who was a man of most holy purity; the courtesy of Brother 
Angelo, who was the first nobleman to enter the Order, and 
was endowed with all courtesy and kindness ; the gracious look 
and natural good sense of Brother Masseo, together with his 
noble and devout eloquence; the mind upraised to God, 
possessed in its highest perfection by Brother Giles; the virtuous 
and constant prayer of Brother Rufino, who prayed without 
ceasing, and whose mind was ever fixed on God, whether 
sleeping or working; the patience of Brother Juniper, who 
attained the state of perfect patience because he kept the truth 
of his low estate constantly in mind whose supreme desire was 
to follow Christ on the way of the Cross; the bodily and spiritual 
courage of Brother John of Lauds, who in his time had been 
physically stronger than all men; the charity of Brother Roger, 
whose whole life and conversation was inspired by fervent 

106 



charity; the caution of Brother Lucidus, who was unwilling to 
remain in any place longer than a month, for when he began to 
like a place, he would at once leave it, saying, 'Our home is not 
here, but in heaven. 5 



86 

Saint Francis tells the friars a parable about pure looks, in order to 
illustrate chaste conduct. 

AFTER the fundamental virtue of holy humility, blessed Francis 
loved and wished to see pre-eminent in the friars among the 
other virtues that of fair and pure chastity. Wishing to teach 
the friars to have chaste eyes, he gave an example of impure looks 
by the following parable. 

A devout and powerful king sent two messengers in succession 
to his queen. The first returned and simply reported the words 
of the queen, saying nothing about the queen herself. The other 
messenger returned, and having briefly delivered his message, 
gave a lengthy description of the queen's beauty. Indeed, Your 
Majesty/ he said, 'I have seen the most beautiful of women. 
Happy the man who enjoys her !' 

The king said, Vile fellow, you have been casting impure 
looks on my queen ! It is evident that you have secretly hoped 
to possess what you saw/ So he recalled the first messenger and 
said to him, 'What do you think of the queen?' 'She is an 
excellent lady,' he wisely replied, Tor she listened to me willingly 
and with patience.' Then the king asked, 'And do you think her 
beautiful?' He replied, 'Your Majesty, it is your privilege to 
look at her and decide this; my duty was only to deliver her 
message.* The king then made this decree, 'You have pure eyes; 
be chaste in body as well. You shall serve in my apartments and 
enjoy my pleasures. But this shameless fellow is to leave my 
palace lest he defile my bed/ 

107 



'Therefore/ said blessed Francis, 'who will not fear 10 gaze 

upon die bride of Christ?* 

87 

The three sayings that he left to the friars to preserve their perfection. 

ONCE when he wanted to vomit because of his disease of the 
stomach, he did so with such violence that he brought up blood 
all night until morning- When his companions saw him almost 
dying from extreme exhaustion and pain, they said to him with 
the deepest grief and many tears, 'Father, what shall we do 
without you? To whose charge will you leave us orphans? 
You have always been father and mother to us; you have 
conceived and brought us forth in Christ. You have been our 
leader and shepherd, our instructor and corrector, teaching and 
correcting us by your example rather than by words. Where 
shall we go, sheep without a shepherd, children without a father, 
rough and simple men without a leader? Where shall we go to 
find you, O Glory of Poverty, Praise of Simplicity, and boast 
of our sinful nature? Who now will show us blind men the 
way of truth? How shall we hear your mouth speaking to us, 
and your tongue giving us counsel? Where will be your 
burning spirit, which guides us along the way of the Cross, and 
inspires us to evangelical perfection? Where will you be, so 
that we may run to you, light of our eyes? Where can we seek 
you, comfort of our souls? O Father, are you dying? You are 
leaving us abandoned, sad, and full of despair ! 

'Alas for this day ! For a day of tears and bitterness, a day of 
desolation and grief is coming upon us ! And no wonder, for 
your life has been a constant light to us, and your words have 
been like burning torches, always lighting us along the way of 
the Cross to evangelical perfection, and to the love and imitation 
of our sweet and crucified Lord. 

'Father, at least give your blessing to us and to the other 

108 



friars, the sons whom you have begotten in Christ, and leave us 
some memorial of your will which the brethren can always have 
in remembrance, and say, "Our Father left these words to his 
friars and sons at his death." * 

Then the most loving Father turned his eyes towards his sons, 
and said, 'Send Brother Benedict of Pkatro to me/ For this 
friar was a holy and wise priest, who sometimes celebrated Mass 
for blessed Francis when he was lying ill; for however sick he 
might be, he always wished to hear Mass whenever possible. 
And when he had come, blessed Francis said, 'Write that I give 
my blessing to all my brethren in the Order, and to all who will 
enter it in time to come until the end of the world. And since 
I cannot speak much because of my weakness and the pain of 
my disease, I wish briefly to make my will and purpose clear to 
all the brethren, both present and to come. As a sign that they 
remember me, my blessing, and my Testament, I wish them 
always to love one another, as I have loved them. Let them 
always love and honour our Lady Poverty, and remain faithful 
and obedient to the bishops and clergy of holy Mother Church.' 

At the close of Chapters, our Father always used to bless and 
absolve all the friars in the Order, both present and to come, 
and in the fervour of his love he often did so out of Chapter. 
But he used to warn the brethren that they must beware of 
setting a bad example, and he cursed all who by their bad 
example caused people to speak ill of the Order and life of the 
friars, since the good and holy friars are put to disgrace and 
great distress by such behaviour. 



On the love that he showed the friars when nearing death* ly giving 
to each a fragment of bread after the example of Christ. 

ONE night blessed Francis was in such distress from the pain of 
his disease that he could not sleep or rest all night long. But 

109 



at dawn, when his pain eased somewhat, he sent for all the 
friars in the house. And making them sit down hefore him, he 
looked upon them as representatives of the whole Order. And 
laying his right hand on the head of each in turn, he blessed 
them all, both present and absent, as well as those who were to 
enter the Order until the end of the world. And he seemed to 
grieve because he was unable to see all his friars and sons before 
his death. 

But washing to imitate his Lord and Master in his death as he 
had done so perfectly in his life, he ordered loaves to be brought 
to him. And having blessed them, he had them broken into 
many fragments, for his great weakness would not allow him to 
break them himself. Then he took the bread and gave a piece 
to each of the friars, asking them to eat all of it. 

In this way, as on the Thursday before His death our Lord 
had desired to eat with His Apostles as a sign of His love, so did 
His perfect imitator blessed Francis wish to show the same sign 
of love to his own brethren. It is clear that he wishe \ to do this 
in imitation of Christ, for he later inquired whed .er it were 
Thursday; and when he was told that it was another day, he 
said that he had thought it was Thursday. 

One of the friars preserved a piece of this bread, and after the 
death of blessed Francis many sick people who tasted it were 
immediately healed of their diseases. 

89 

How he feared that the friars might be put to trouble by his illness. 

WHILE he was unable to sleep because of his ailments, he realized 
that the friars were becoming very distracted and tired on his 
account. And because he had a deeper concern for their souls 
than for his own body, he began to fear that their constant 
efforts to serve him might cause them to commit some small 
offence against God through impatience. 

110 



So with great pity and compassion he once said to his com- 
panions, 'My dearest brothers and litde sons, do not allow your 
labours for me in my illness be a burden to you, for God will 
repay you for me, His litde servant; He will reward you with 
all the fruits of your labours, both in this world and the next. 
You will win more merit for the things that you have had to 
leave undone in your care for me in my illness, than if you had 
done them for yourselves ; for whoever helps me helps the whole 
Order and life of the friars. In fact, you can say to me, "We are 
accumulating credit on your account, and God Himself will be 
in our debt/* ' 

The holy Father spoke in these terms wishing to encourage 
and support their faint spirits, and moved by his great zeal for 
the perfection of their souls. For he was afraid that, because of 
their work for him, some of them might say, 'We cannot pray 
because we have so much work to do,' and becoming tired and 
impatient, they might lose the great reward due for their modest 
labours. 

90 

How he counselled the Sisters of Saint Clare. 

AFTER blessed Francis had composed The Praises of the Lord in 
His Creatures, he also wrote some holy words with a melody to 
comfort and edify the Poor Ladies, knowing that they were in 
great distress over his illness. And being unable to visit them 
personally, he sent these words to them by his companions. For 
in these words he wished to make his purpose clear to them, 
namely, that they were to live and converse humbly, and be of 
one mind in charity. For he saw that their conversion and holy 
life was not only a source of glory to the Order of Friars, but 
of edification to the whole Church. 

But knowing that from the beginning of their conversion they 
had led a life of great confinement and poverty, he always felt 

ill 



at dawn, when Ms pain eased somewhat, he sent for all the 
friars in the house. And making them sit down before him, he 
looked upon them as representatives of the whole Order. And 
laying his right hand on the head of each in turn, he blessed 
them all, both present and absent, as well as those who were to 
enter the Order until the end of the world. And he seemed to 
grieve because he was unable to see all his friars and sons before 
his death. 

But wishing to imitate his Lord and Master in his death as he 
had done so perfectly in his life, lie ordered loaves to be brought 
to him. And having blessed them, he had them broken into 
many fragments, for his great weakness would not allow him to 
break them himself. Then he took the bread and gave a piece 
to each of the friars, asking them to eat all of it. 

In this way, as on the Thursday before His death our Lord 
had desired to eat with His Apostles as a sign of His love, so did 
His perfect imitator blessed Francis wish to show the same sign 
of love to his own brethren. It is clear that he wishe ! to do this 
in imitation of Christ, for he later inquired whetl er it were 
Thursday; and when he was told that it was another day, he 
said that he had thought it was Thursday. 

One of the friars preserved a piece of this bread, and after the 
death of blessed Francis many sick people who tasted it were 
immediately healed of their diseases. 

89 

How he feared that the friars might be put to trouble by his illness- 

WHILE he was unable to sleep because of his ailments, he realized 
that the friars were becoming very distracted and tired on his 
account. And because he had a deeper concern for their souls 
than for his own body, he began to fear that their constant 
efforts to serve him might cause them to commit some small 
offence against God through impatience. 

110 



So with great pity and compassion he once said to his com- 
panions, *My dearest brothers and little sons, do not allow your 
labours for me in my illness be a burden to you, for God will 
repay you for me, His little servant; He will reward you with 
all the fruits of your labours, both in this world and the next. 
You will win more merit for the things that you have had to 
leave undone in your care for me in my illness, than if you had 
done them for yourselves; for whoever helps me helps the whole 
Order and life of the friars. In fact, you can say to me, "We are 
accumulating credit on your account, and God Himself will be 
in our debt." ' 

The holy Father spoke in these terms wishing to encourage 
and support their faint spirits, and moved by his great zeal for 
the perfection of their souls. For he was afraid that, because of 
their work for him, some of them might say, 'We cannot pray 
because we have so much work to do/ and becoming tired and 
impatient, they might lose the great reward due for their modest 
labours. 



90 

How he counselled the Sisters of Saint Clare. 

AFTER blessed Francis had composed The Praises of the Lord in 
His Creatures, he also wrote some holy words with a melody to 
comfort and edify the Poor Ladies, knowing that they were in 
great distress over his illness. And being unable to visit them 
personally, he sent these words to them by his companions. For 
in these words he wished to make his purpose clear to them, 
namely, that they were to live and converse humbly, and be of 
one mind in charity. For he saw that their conversion and holy 
life was not only a source of glory to the Order of Friars, but 
of edification to the whole Church. 

But knowing that from the beginning of their conversion they 
had led a life of great confinement and poverty, he always felt 

ill 



the greatest pity and compassion for them. So in these words 
he asked that as the Lord had gathered them together from many 
places into one in order to live in holy charity, poverty, and 
obedience, they must always persevere in them until death. He 
particularly emphasized that they should make proper provision 
for their bodily needs out of the alms that the Lord gave them 
with joy and thankfulness. And he asked above all that the 
healthy sisters be patient in their labours for the sick, and the 
sick be patient in their illnesses. 



112 



PART VI 

ON HIS CONSTANT FERVOUR OF LOVE AND PITY 
FOR THE PASSION OF CHRIST 

91 

Firstly ; how he had no thought for his own infirmities because of his 
devotion to the Passion of Christ. 

So fervent were the love and compassion of blessed Francis for 
the sorrows and sufferings of Christ, and so deep was his inward 
and outward grief over the Passion day by day that he had never 
considered his own infirmities. Consequently, although he 
suffered from ailments of the stomach, spleen, and liver over a 
long period until the day of his death, and had endured constant 
pain in his eyes ever since his return from overseas, he was never 
willing to undergo any treatment for its cure. 

So the Lord Cardinal of Ostia, seeing how harsh he had 
always been on his own body, and how he was already beginning 
to lose his sight because he refused to undergo a cure, urged him 
with great kindness and compassion, saying, 'Brother, you are 
not doing right in refusing treatment, for your life and health 
are of great value not only to the friars, but to the layfolk and 
the whole Church. You have always had a great sympathy for 
your brethren when they are sick, and have always been kindly 
and merciful; you must not be cruel to yourself in so great a 
need. I therefore order you to have yourself cured and helped.* 
For because the most holy Father took boundless delight in 
imitating the humility and example of the Son of God, he 
always regarded anything unpleasant to the body as welcome. 



92 

How he was found loudly lamenting the Passion of Christ as he 
walked along. 

A SHORT while after his conversion, as he was walking alone 
along the road not far from the church of S. Mary of the 
Porziuncula, he was uttering loud cries and lamentations as he 
went. And a spiritually-minded man who met him, fearing that 
he was suffering from some painful ailment, said to him, 'What is 
your trouble, brother?' But he replied, *I am not ashamed to 
travel through the whole world in this way, bewailing the 
Passion of my Lord.' At this, the man joined him in his grief, 
and began to weep aloud. 

We have known this man and learned of this incident through 
him* He is one who has shown great kindness and compassion 
to blessed Francis and to us who were his companions. 



93 

How his outward signs of joy sometimes gave place to tears and 
compassion for Christ. 

INTOXICATED by love and compassion for Christ, blessed Francis 

sometimes used to act in ways like these. For the sweetest of 
spiritual melodies would often well up within him and found 
expression in French melodies, and the murmurs of God's voice, 
heard by him alone, would joyfully pour forth in the French 
tongue. 

Sometimes he would pick up a stick from the ground, and 
laying it on Ms left arm, he would draw another stick across it 
with his right hand like a bow, as though he were playing a 
viol or some other instrument; and he would imitate the 
movements of a musician and sing in French of our Lord Jesus 
Christ 

114 



But all this jollity would end in tears, and Ms joy would melt 
away in compassion for the sufferings of Christ. And at such 
times he would break into constant sighs, and in his grief would 

forget what he was holding in his hands, and be caught up in 
spirit into heaven. 



115 



PART VII 

ON HIS ZEAL FOR PRAYER AND THE DIVINE OFFICE, 

AND HIS DESIRE TO PRESERVE THE SPIRIT OF JOY 
IN HIMSELF AND IN OTHERS 



94 

Firstly, on player and the Divine Office. 

ALTHOUGH he had been troubled for many years by the infirmi- 
ties already described, he was so devout and reverent at prayer 
and the Divine Office that whenever he was at prayer or reciting 
the Divine Office he would never lean against a wall or support. 
He always stood upright and bareheaded, although he some- 
times knelt. Indeed, he devoted the greater part of the day and 
night to prayer, and even when he was travelling around on foot, 
he would always halt when he wished to say the Hours. But if 
he were riding because of his infirmity, he would always dis- 
mount to say the Office, 

One day it was raining heavily, and he was riding because of 
his infirmity and pressing need. And although he was already 
drenched to the skin, he dismounted from the horse when he 
wished to say the Hours, and said the Office standing in the 
road with the rain pouring down on him, as though he had 
been in a church or cell. And he said to his companion, *If the 
body likes to take its food in peace and at ease, although it 
becomes food for worms, how much greater should be the 
soul's reverence and devotion when it receives the food which 
is God Himself/ 



116 



95 

How he always loved spiritual joy, loth in himself and others. 

IT was always the supreme and particular desire of blessed 
Francis to possess an abiding joy of spirit outside times of prayer 
and Divine Office. This was the virtue that he especially loved 
to see in his brethren, and he often reproached them when they 
showed signs of gloom and despondency. 

He used to say, *If the servant of God strives to obtain and 
preserve both outwardly and inwardly the joyful spirit which 
springs from purity of heart and is acquired through devout 
prayer, the devils have no power to hurt him, and say, "We can 
find no way to get at him or hurt him, because this servant of 
God preserves his joy both in trouble and in prosperity." But 
the devils are delighted when they discover means to quench or 
disturb the devotion and joy which springs from true prayer 
and other holy practices. For if the devil can obtain a hold over 
one of God's servants, he will soon transform a single hair into 
a log to hurl at him unless he is a wise man and takes care to 
remove and destroy it as quickly as possible by the power of 
holy prayer, contrition, and satisfaction. 

"Therefore, my brothers, since this spiritual joy springs from 
cleanness of heart and the purity of constant prayer, it must be 
your first concern to acquire and preserve these two virtues, so 
as to possess this inward joy that I so greatly desire and love to 
see both in you and myself, and which edify our neighbour and 
reproach our enemy. For it is the lot of the Devil and his 
minions to be sorrowful, but ours always to be happy and 
rejoice in the Lord/ 



117 



96 

How lie censured one of his companions for showing a gloomy face. 

BLESSED Francis used to say, 'Although I know that the devils 
envy me the blessings that God has given me, I also know and 
see that they cannot harm me through myself, so they plan and 
try to hurt me through my companions. But if they cannot 
hurt me either through myself or through my companions, they 
retire in great confusion. Indeed, whenever I am tempted or 
depressed, if I see my companions joyful, I immediately turn 
away from my temptation and oppression, and regain my own 
inward and outward joy/ 

So the Father used to censure those who went about with 
gloomy faces, and once rebuked a friar who appeared with a 
gloomy face, saying, *Why are you making an outward display 
of grief and sorrow for your sin? This sorrow is between God 
and yourself alone. So pray Him in His mercy to pardon you 
and restore to your soul the joy of His salvation, of which the 
guilt of your sins has deprived it. Always do your best to be 
cheerful when you are with me and the other brethren; it is not 
right for a servant of God to show a sad and gloomy face to his 
brother or to anyone else.' 

It should not be imagined, however, that our Father, who 
loved dignified and sensible behaviour, wished this spiritual joy 
to be shown in levity or empty chatter, for these things are not 
evidence of spiritual joy, but of emptiness and folly. He greatly 
disliked laughter and idle gossip in a servant of God; in fact, he 
preferred him not to laugh, and to avoid giving others any 
occasion for hilarity. In one of his Counsels he gave an even 
dearer definition of the nature of spiritual joy in a servant of 
God, saying, 'Blessed is the Religious who has no pleasure or 
joy except in the most holy sayings and works of the Lord, and 
by these inspires men to the love of God in joy and gladness. 

118 



And woe to the Religious who takes delight in Idle and foolish 
talk, and by them provokes men to laughter.' 

By a joyful face, therefore, he understood fervour, thoughtful- 
ness, and the disposition and preparation of mind and body to 

a ready undertaking of every good work; for this fervour and 
readiness often have a greater influence on people than by the 
good deed itself. Indeed, however good an action may be, if it 
does not seem to have been done willingly and fervently, it tends 
to produce distaste rather than edification. So he did not wish 
to see a gloomy face, which often betrays a sluggish body and a 
melancholy mind. He always loved to see gravity of face and 
deportment both in himself and others, and did his best to 
encourage this by word and example. For experience had taught 
him that grave and restrained behaviour provided a wall and- 
strong shield against the darts of the devils ; he knew that without 
the protection of this wall and shield the soul resembled an 
unarmed soldier among powerful and well-armed enemies, ever 
eager and intent on his death. 



97 

How he told the friars to satisfy their bodily needs, lest prayer be 
lost through sickness. 

OUR most holy Father, knowing that the body was created to 
serve the soul, and that bodily actions, were to be performed 
for spiritual ends, used to say, 'In eating, sleeping, and 
satisfying the other needs of the body, the servant of God 
should make sensible provision for his Brother Body so that 
he may not have cause to complain and say, "I cannot 
stand upright and continue at prayer, nor can I be cheer- 
ful in my troubles or do other good things, because you 
do not provide for my needs." But if the servant of God satisfies 
his body wisely, adequately, and suitably, and Brother Body 
wants to be careless, fat, and sleepy in prayer, vigils, and other 

119 



good works, then he must punish him like a fat and idle beast of 
burden, because he wants to eat but not to be useful and carry 
his load. However, if Brother Body cannot have what he needs 
in health or sickness because of want and poverty, and has 
humbly and honestly asked it of his brother or superior for the 
love of God, but has not received it, let him bear it patiently for 
love of our Lord, Who will comfort him; for Christ Himself 
endured want, and found no comfort. And if he bears this want 
patiently, God will credit it to him as his martyrdom. And 
because he has done whatsoever he could and humbly asked 
for his needs he will be absolved from all blame, even though 
his body become gravely ill as a result.' 



120 



PART VIII 

ON CERTAIN TEMPTATIONS WHICH THE LORD 
ALLOWED TO ASSAIL HIM 



98 

Firstly, how the devil entered a pillow under his head. 

WHILE blessed Francis was staying in the hermitage of Greccio 
lie was at prayer one night in the last cell beyond the large cell, 
and during the early hours of the night he called to his com- 
panion who was sleeping near him. This friar rose and came to 
the door of blessed Francis's cell, and the saint said to him, 
'Brother, I have not been able to sleep to-night, and I can't 
stand up to pray because rny head shakes and my knees tremble 
violently. I think I must have eaten some darnel bread.' 

When the friar had expressed his sympathy, blessed Francis 
said, *I am sure that the devil is in this pillow under my head !' 
(For ever since he had left the world he had always declined to 
lie on a feather mattress or use a feather pillow, but the friars 
had compelled him against his will to have this pillow because 
of his disease of the eyes.) So he threw it to his companion, 
who caught it in his right hand and laid it on his left shoulder. 
But directly he passed through the door of the cell, he lost his 
speech, and could neither put down the pillow nor move his 
arms. So he stood there upright, with his senses benumbed 
and unable to stir from the spot. Having stood like this for 
some while, by the grace of God blessed Francis called to him; 
and at once he regained his senses, and let the pillow fall behind 
his back. 

121 



Coming back to blessed Francis, he told him what had 
happened to him, and the saint said, 'While I was saying Com- 
pline late last evening I felt the devil entering the cell. And I 
know that the devil is very cunning, for when he realized that 
he could not harm my soul, he wanted to prevent my body 
receiving its needs, so that I could neither sleep nor stand up to 
pray. He thought that he would disturb rny devotion and joy 
of heart in this way, and make me complain of my affliction.' 

99 

On the grave temptation that he endured for more than two years. 

WHILE he was living in the friary of S. Mary, a very grave 
temptation was inflicted on him for the good of his soul. He was 
so tormented in mind and body by this, that he often withdrew 
from the company of the friars because he could not show them 
his usual cheerfulness. Nevertheless, he continued to discipline 
himself by abstinence from food, drink, and speech; and he 
prayed more constantly and shed more abundant tears, so that 
the Lord might be pleased to grant some remedy strong enough 
for so great a trial. 

When he had been troubled in this way for more than two 
years, he happened to be praying in the church of S. Mary one 
day, when he -heard in spirit the words of the Gospel: If you 
have faith, though it be but like a grain of mustard seed, you have only 
to say to this mountain, Remove from this place to that, and it will 
remove. At once blessed Francis asked, 'Lord, what is this 
mountain?' And the reply came, 'This mountain is your 
temptation/ In that case, Lord/ said blessed Francis, let it 
happen with me as You have said/ And from that moment he 
was. so completely freed that it seemed to him as though he had 
never had any temptation. 

In the same way, at the time when he received the Stigmata 
of our Lord in his own body on the holy mountain of La Verna, 

122 



lie suffered so many temptations and troubles from the devils 

that he could not display his former joy. And he told his 
companion (Brother Leo), If the brethren knew how many great 
trials and afflictions the devils bring upon me, there is not one 

of them who would not be moved to compassion and pity 
for me/ 

100 

How he was plagued by mice; and how the Lord comforted him, and 
assured him of His Kingdom. 

Two years before his death, while he was staying at S. Damian 
in a cell made of rush-mats, he was suffering intensely from his 
disease of the eyes, and for more than fifty days he could not 
bear the light of day, or even firelight. And in order to increase 
both his affliction and his merit, God allowed a horde of mice to 
infest the walls of his cell, and they ran over and around him 
day and night, so that he could neither pray nor rest. Even when 
he was eating, they climbed onto his table and worried him 
greatly, so- that both he and his companions clearly recognized 
it as a temptation by the devil. 

So one night, tormented by so many troubles and feeling sorry 
for himself, he prayed inwardly, 'Lord, look on me and help 
me in my troubles, and give me strength to bear them patiently/ 
And at once he heard a voice within his soul, saying, 'Tell Me, 
brother; if in recompense for these infirmities and tribulations 
you were to be given so vast and precious a treasure that, were 
the whole world pure gold, its stones jewels, and all its waters 
balsam, you would regard them as nothing in comparison to 
this vast treasure, would not you be very happy?' And blessed 
Francis replied, 'Lord, such a treasure would be vast and precious, 
very lovely and desirable/ And he heard the voice speaking to 
him once more, 'Then be glad,, brother, and rejoice in your 
troubles and infirmities. As for the rest, trust in Me, as though 
you were already in My Kingdom/ 

123 



Basing early, lie said to Ms companions, If an Emperor were 
to grant a whole kingdom to one of His slaves, ought not that 
slave to be full of joy? And if he were to bestow his entire 
empire on that slave, would be not be even happier?' And he 
continued, 'I should therefore rejoice in my infirmities and 
troubles, and be strong in the Lord, always giving thanks to God 
the Father, and to His only Son Jesus Christ, and to the Holy 
Spirit, for the great grace granted me by the Lord, for He has 
deigned to assure me, His unworthy servant, of His Kingdom 
while still living in the flesh. So, to His praise, for our own 
comfort and to edify our neighbours, I want to compose a new 
Praise of the Lord in His creatures; for we daily make use of them, 
and cannot live without them, and through them the human 
race greatly offends their Creator. For we are always ungrateful 
for His many graces and blessings, and do not praise the Lord, 
the Creator and Giver of all good gifts, as we should/ And 
sitting down, he began to meditate awhile. 

Afterwards he said, Most High, Almighty, good Lord, etc., and 
he set the words to a melody, and taught his companions to 
recite and sing it. For his soul was so full of consolation and 
sweetness at that time that he wished to send for Brother 
Pacificus, who had been known in the world as 'The King of 
Verse* and had been master of the choir at a noble court, and 
he wanted to give him a number of good and spiritual friars, 
who could go around the world with him, reciting and singing 
the Praises of the Lord. He said that he would like the friar who 
was the best preacher to speak to the people first, and afterwards 
they were all to sing the Praises of the Lord together as minstrels of 
God. And when die Praises were ended, the preacher was to 
say to the people, * We are God's minstrels, and ask you to repay 
us for our songs by living in true penitence/ 'For what are God's 
servants but His minstrels/ he said, *who must inspire the hearts 
of men and stir them to spiritual joy/ And in so saying, he 
referred particularly to the Friars Minor, whom God had given 
to the people for their salvation. 

124 



PART IX 
ON THE SPIRIT OF PROPHECY 

101 

Firstly, how he foretold the restoration of peace between the Bishop 
and Mayor of Assist through the influence of the Praises of the 
Creatures which he had composed and ordered his companions to $ing 

before them. 

AFTER blessed Francis had composed The Praises of the Creatures , 
which he called The Song of Brother Sun, a serious dispute hap- 
pened to arise between the Bishop of Assisi and the Mayor. As 
a result, the Bishop excommunicated the Mayor, and the Mayor 
issued an order forbidding anyone to sell anything to the Bishop, 
to buy anything from him, or to make any agreement with him, 
Although blessed Francis was ill when he heard of this, he 
was deeply grieved on their account, especially as there was no 
one to make peace between them. And he said to his com- 
panions, *It brings great disgrace on us when the Bishop and 
Mayor hate one another in this way, and no one can make peace 
between them/ So he immediately wrote a verse to be included 
in the Praises for this occasion, and said: 

Praise to Thee, my Lord, for those who pardon one another 
For love of Thee, and endure 
Sickness and tribulation; 

Blessed are they who shall endure it in peace, 
For they shall be crowned by Thee, 
O Most High. 

125 



Then he called one of his companions and said, *Go to the Mayor, 
and ask him from me to go to the Bishop's house with the city 
councillors and any others he can bring with him/ And when 
this friar had left, he said to two other companions, *Go and 
sing The Song of Brother Sun before the Bishop, the Mayor, and 
those who are with them. I trust that the Lord will at once 
humble their hearts, and that they will return to their former 
affection and friendship/ 

So when the whole company had assembled in the cloister- 
garth of the Bishop's house, the two friars rose, and one of them 
said* 'Blessed Francis in his sickness has composed a Praise of the 
Lord in His Creatures, in order to praise the Lord and edify his 
fellow men, so he asks you to listen to it with great devotion/ 
And they began to recite and sing it. 

At once the Mayor rose and clasped his hands, listening with 
the greatest devotion, as though he were hearing the Lord's 
Gospel; and he wept profusely, for he had great faith in blessed 
Francis and a great devotion to him. And when the Praises of 
the Lord were ended, the Mayor said before the whole company, 
*I solemnly assure you that I forgive the Lord Bishop, and wish 
to acknowledge him as my lord. And even if some man had 
slain my brother or my son, I would forgive him/ With these 
words, he cast himself at die Bishop's feet, and said to him, 'See 
now, for the love of our Lord Jesus Christ and of His servant 
blessed Francis I am willing to offer any amends that you 
please/ But the Bishop took him by the hands and raised him, 
saying, *My office requires me to be humble, but I am quick- 
tempered by nature; I therefore beg you to forgive me/ So 
they embraced and kissed one another with great kindness and 
affection. 

The friars were astonished and overjoyed when they saw that 
the reconciliation which blessed Francis had foretold had been 
thus fulfilled to the letter. And all present regarded it as a great 
miracle, and attributed it whoEy to the merits of blessed Francis, 
that the "Lord had moved them so swiftly, and that without 

126 



uttering a word they had turned back from great discord and 
scandal to complete harmony. 

But we who were with blessed Francis testify that whenever 
he said of anything, 'This is so/ or 'This will be/ it always took 
place to the letter. And we have seen this happen so often that 
it would take us a long time to write or describe it. 

102 

How he foretold the fall of a friar who refused to confess under the 
pretext of observing silence. 

THERE was once a friar who was outwardly a man of sincere 
and holy life, and seemed to pray constantly day and night. And 
he observed perpetual silence, so that whenever he confessed to 
a priest, he did so by signs instead of words. He seemed so 
devout and fervent in the love of God that when he sometimes 
sat with the other brethren, although he did not speak, he was 
filled with inward and outward joy at hearing devout conversa- 
tion, and thus moved other friars to devotion. 

But when he had followed this way of life for several years, 
blessed Francis happened to visit the place where he was living. 
And learning of his way of life from the other friars, he told 
them, s lt is most certainly a temptation of the devil that makes 
him unwilling to confess/ Meanwhile the Minister General 
came to visit blessed Francis, and began to praise this friar to 
him. But blessed Francis said, 'Believe me, Brother, this friar 
has been led away and deceived by a wicked spirit/ The Minister 
General replied, *It seems strange and almost incredible to me 
that this could be the case when the man shows so many signs 
of holiness and good works/ But blessed Francis said, 'Test him 
by telling him to confess at least once or twice a week in Chapter. 
If he refuses to obey, you will know that what I have said is 
true/ 

So the Minister General said to the friar, *Brother, I require 

127 



you to confess twice, or at least once, in Chapter. 9 But the friar 
laid his finger on his lips, shaking his head and showing by signs 
that he was not willing to do so because of his love for silence. 

And fearing to offend him, the Minister let him go. But not 
many days kter this friar left the Order of his own will, and 
returned to the world wearing secular clothes. 

One day two companions of blessed Francis chanced to be 
walking along a certain road when they met" this man, who was 
walking alone like a very poor pilgrim. Feeling sorry for him, 
they said, *Wretched man, what has happened to your sincere 
and holy way of life? For once you refused to speak or explain 
yourself to your brethren, and now you go wandering about 
the world like a man who knows nothing of God !' And he 
began to talk to them, often swearing *By my faith !', which is 
a common worldly expression. And they said, 'Unhappy man ! 
Why do you swear by your faith like worldly men? Once you 
used to keep silence, not only from idle words, but even from 
good words/ So they parted company, and not long afterwards 
he died. And we were all amazed when we realized how 
everything that blessed Francis had foretold when the friars had 
regarded the man as a saint had come true to the letter. 

103 

On the man who begged Saint Francis with tears to admit him into 

the Order. 

AT the time when no one was admitted into the Order without 
the approval of blessed Francis, the son of a nobleman of Lucca 
came with many others who wished to enter the Order to see 
blessed Francis, who was then lying ill in the palace of the Bishop 
of Assisi. And when they all presented themselves to blessed 
Francis, he bowed before him and began to weep aloud, begging 
him to admit him. But blessed Francis looked at him and said, 
'Wretched and worldly man, why are you lying to the Holy 
Spirit and to me? Your tears are worldly and not spiritual.* 

128 



And while lie was speaking, the man's relatives arrived outside 
the palace on horseback, wishing to seize him and carry him 
back with them. Hearing the clatter of horses, he looked through 
a window and saw his relatives. And at once he went down to 
them, and returned to the world with them as blessed Francis 
had foreseen. 

104 

On the priest's vineyard, which was stripped of its grapes because of 
Saint Francis. 

BLESSED Francis was once staying with a poor priest at the 
church of S. Fabian near Rieri because of his disease of die eyes 9 
and the Lord Pope Honorius was visiting the city with his whole 
court at the same time. And because of their devotion to blessed 
Francis, many cardinals and other high clergy came to see Mm 
almost daily. 

Now this church had a small vineyard adjoining the house 
where blessed Francis was lodged, and nearly all those who 
visited him passed through the vineyard to the door of the 
house. And because the grapes were ripe and the place very 
pleasant, the entire vineyard was stripped and despoiled of its 
grapes. So the priest began to feel indignant, saying, "Although 
it is a small vineyard, I used to make sufficient wine from it for 
my needs, but this year I have lost the whole crop. 

When blessed Francis heard of this he sent for him, and said, 
'Father, do not worry any more, for we cannot do anything 
about it now. But trust in the Lord, for He is able to repair your 
loss in full for the sake of me, His little servant. Tel me, how 
many measures of wine did you obtain when your vineyard 
was at its best?* 'Thirteen measures, Father/ the priest replied. 
Blessed Francis said to him, 'Have no more regrets, and say no 
hard words because of this. Trust in God and my word, and if 
you obtain less than twenty measures of wine, I will have it 



129 



made up to you/ So the priest kept silence and said no more; 
and at die time of vintage he obtained no less than twenty 
measures of wine. And the priest was amazed, as were all who 
heard of it, and said that even if the vineyard had been full of 
grapes, it could not have produced twenty measures of wine. 

But we who were with him testify that what he said about 
this, and everything else that he foretold, was always fulfilled 
to the letter. 



105 

How the knights of Perugia obstructed his preaching. 

WHILE blessed Francis was preaching in the square at Perugia, 
some knights of Perugia began to canter around the square on 
horseback, exercising with their weapons. This greatly hindered 
his preaching, and although those who were listening protested, 
they refused to desist. So blessed Francis turned to them, and 
said in great fervour of spirit: 'Listen, and understand what 
the Lord proclaims through me, His little servant; and don't 
say, "This is a fellow from Assisi !" ' (He said this because there 
was, and still is, a long-standing feud between the men of 
Perugia and Assisi.) And he went on, 'God has elevated you 
above your neighbours, and because of this you should be all 
the more ready to acknowledge your Creator by being humble, 
both towards God and to your neighbours. But your hearts 
are swoEen with pride, and you attack your neighbours and kill 
many of them. I warn you that unless you speedily turn to God 
and compensate those whom you have injured, God Who leaves 
no crime unpunished will cause you to rise up against one 
another to your greater hurt and disgrace. You will be rent 
asunder by sedition and civil strife, and suffer far greater damage 
than your neighbours could ever inflict on you/ 

For blessed Francis would never remain silent when he 
preached on the sins of the people, but rebuked them all openly 

130 



and boldly. But the Lord had endowed him with such grace 
that all who heard and saw him, whatever 'their rank and 
condition, felt a great fear and reverence for him because he 
possessed the grace of God in such abundance. So men were 
always edified by his words, however severely they were 
rebuked by him, and were either converted to God or pricked 
in conscience. 

A few days later God permitted a dispute to arise between the 
knights and the citizens, as a result of which the people drove 
the knights out of the city. And the knights, supported by the 
Church, devastated their fields, vineyards, and trees, and wrought 
every possible evil on the people. In retaliation, the people 
wrecked all the property of the knights, and both people and 
knights were punished just as blessed Francis had foretold. 

106 

How he foresaw the secret temptation and trouble of one of the friars. 

ONE of the friars, a sincerely spiritual man and a friend of blessed 
Francis, had for many days been subjected to very severe 
temptations by the devil, and was almost reduced to despair. 
Every day he was so tormented by temptation that he was 
ashamed to confess as often as he should, and because of this he 
afflicted himself with much fasting, vigils, tears, and scourging. 

By the will of God blessed Francis came to this friary, and 
one day while this brother was walking with him, the Father 
was enlightened by the Holy Spirit as to his trouble and tempta- 
tion. Withdrawing a short distance from the friar who was 
walking with him, he turned to the troubled brother and said, 
'Dearest Brother, henceforward I do not wish you to feel 
obliged to confess these temptations of the devil. And do not be 
afraid, for they have not harmed your soul. But, with my 
approval, say seven Our Fathers whenever they trouble you/ 

The friar was very relieved when blessed Francis told him 

131 



that he was not obliged to confess them, for he had been very 
uneasy in mind on this matter. But he was dumbfounded that 
blessed Francis knew about this thing, which was known only 
to the priests to whom he had made his confession. And by the 
grace of God and the merits of blessed Francis he was immedi- 
ately delivered from his temptation, and thenceforward con- 
tinued in the greatest peace and tranquillity. And it was because 
the Saint had hoped for this that he confidently excused him 
from confession. 



107 

On the things that he foretold of Brother Bernard, and how they were 

altfulfilled. 

NOT long before his death, some tasty food was prepared for 
blessed Francis, whereupon he thought of Brother Bernard, who 
was the first friar that he had. Saying to his companions, 'This 
dish is good for Brother Bernard,' he immediately sent for him. 
When Brother Bernard arrived, he sat down beside the bed 
where the Saint was lying, and said to him, 'Father, I beg you to 
bless me and give me some sign of affection, for if you show 
your paternal love towards me, I am sure that God Himself and 
the brethren will love me more.* 

Blessed Francis could not see him, because he had already lost 
the sight of his eyes many days before; but he reached out his 
right hand and laid it on the head of Brother Giles, the third of 
the friars, diinking that he was laying it on the head of Brother 
Bernard, who was sitting beside him. Immediately aware of 
this through the Holy Spirit, he said, 'This is not the head of 
my Brother Bernard/ Then Brother Bernard came closer, and 
laying his hand on his head, blessed Francis gave him his blessing. 
Then he said to one of his companions, 'Write down what I 
tell you. Brother Bernard was the first friar that the Lord gave 
me, and he was first to observe the absolute perfection of the 

132 



Gospel by giving all Ms property to the poor. Because of this, 
and because of Ms many other merits, I cannot help loving him 
more than any other friar in the whole Order. As far as I may* 
I therefore desire and decree that whoever becomes Minister 
General is to love and honour Mm as they would myself. Let 
the Minister and all the friars of the Order regard him as taking 
my place/ And Brother Bernard and the other friars were 
gready comforted by his words. 

Knowing the sublime perfection of Brother Bernard, blessed 
Francis had prophesied before a number of friars, saying, 'Some 
of the most powerful and cunning devils have been assigned to 
tempt Brother Bernard, and they will bring many troubles and 
trials upon him. But as Ms end is drawing near the Lord in His 
mercy will take away all Ms troubles and temptations, and will 
establish such peace and consolation in Ms soul that all the 
brethren who see it will be filled with wonder, and reverence it 
as a great miracle. And in this peace and consolation of soul and 
body he will pass away to the Lord.* 

To the great wonder of all the friars who heard these things 
from blessed Francis all Ms words about Brother Bernard were 
fulfilled to the letter. For during the illness that led to Ms death 
Brother Bernard enjoyed such peace and consolation of spirit 
that he did not want to lie down. And whenever he did so, he 
reclined in a sitting position so that no faintness, however sight, 
might mount to Ms head and interrupt Ms contemplation of 
God, or bring about sleep or delirium. And whenever he felt 
this happening, he would at once start up and strike himself^ 
saying, 'What was that? Why was I thiniing of that?' And he 
refused to accept any medicine, but said to the friar who offered 
it, *Do not disturb me/ 

In order to die in greater freedom and peace, Brother Bernard 
thenceforward entrusted the care of his body to one of the 
bretMren who was a doctor, saying, *I do not wish to be con- 
sulted about what I eat or drink. I leave that to you. If you give 
it me, I will take it; if you do not, I shall not ask for it/ But 

133 



when he began to grow weaker he wished to have a priest 
always with him until the hour of his death; and whenever he 
remembered anything that burdened his conscience, he con- 
fessed it forthwith. After death his flesh became white and soft, 
and he seemed to smile, so that he became more lovely in his 
death than in his life. And all were even happier to gaze at him 
dead than alive, for he seemed *a smiling saint' indeed. 

108 

How, shortly before his death, Saint Francis promised blessed Clare 

that she should see him; and how this came about after his death. 

DURING the week in which blessed Francis died, Lady Clare, the 
first flower of the Poor Sisters of S. Damian in Assisi, feared 
that she might die before him, for they were both seriously ill 
at that time. She wept bitterly and could not be comforted, 
because she thought that she would be unable to see blessed 
Francis, her only Father after God, before her death, for he had 
been her comforter and teacher, and had first established her in 
the grace of God. 

So she sent word of her fears by one of the friars, and when 
he heard of it, the Saint was moved with compassion for her, for 
he loved her with an especial and paternal affection. But realizing 
that he could not fulfil her desire to see him, he wrote a letter to 
comfort her and all the Sisters, and sent her his blessing. And he 
absolved her from any fault that she might have committed 
against his counsel and against the commands and teachings of 
the Son of God. And so that she might put aside all sadness, he 
was guided by the Holy Spirit to say to the friar whom she had 
sent, *Go and tell the Lady Clare to put aside all sorrow and 
grief, for she cannot see me now. But promise her that before 
her death both she and her Sisters shall certainly see me, and 
be greatly comforted because of me.* 

Soon afterwards, when blessed Francis had passed away in the 

134 



night, all the people and clergy of Assisi came very early to take 
his holy body from die place where he had died, and they all 
sang hymns and praises and carried branches of trees. And by 
the will of God they bore him to S. Damian, so that the words 
that God had spoken through blessed Francis to comfort his 
daughters should be fulfilled. 

And when the iron grille through which the Sisters used to 
receive Communion and hear the word of God had been 
removed, the friars lifted the holy body from its bier and raised 
it in their arms in front of the window for a long while. And 
Lady Clare and her sisters were comforted by this, although 
they were filled with grief and wept aloud when they saw 
themselves deprived of the consolation and counsel of so great 
a Father. 



109 

How he foretold that his body would be honoured after his death. 

ONE day, while blessed Francis was lying ill in the house of the 
Bishop of Assisi, a spiritual friar said to him with a smile, as 
though joking, 'How much would you charge the Lord Bishop 
for all your sackcloth? One day many canopies and silken palls 
will cover this little body of yours which is now clothed in 
sackcloth P For at that time he had a cowl patched with sacking, 
and a habit of sacking. 

And blessed Francis speaking not with his own words but 
with those of the Holy Spirit replied with great fervour and 
joy of soul, What you say is true, for it will be to the praise 
and glory of my Lord P 



135 



PART X 

ON GOD'S PROVIDENCE FOR HIM IN MATERIAL 

THINGS 

110 

Firstly, how the Lord provided for the friars who were sharing their 
frugal meal with a doctor. 

ONE day, while blessed Francis was staying in die hermitage of 
Fonte Colombo near Rieri because of his disease of the eyes, the 
oculist visited him. When he had stayed some while and was 
about to take his leave, blessed Francis said to one of his com- 
panions, *Go and give the doctor the best meal that you can/ 
The friar replied, 'Father, I am ashamed to say that we are so 
poor at the moment that it would embarrass us to invite him 
to a meal.' Blessed Francis replied, *O man of little faith, don't 
make me repeat my order !' Then the doctor said to blessed 
Francis, 'Brother, it is because the friars are so poor that it would 
give me all the more pleasure to eat with them/ For the doctor 
was a very rich man, and although blessed Francis and his 
companions had often invited him to a meal, he had not hitherto 
accepted. 

So the brethren went and laid the table, and with great 
embarrassment they placed on it a little bread and wine, together 
with a few cabbages that they had prepared for themselves. 
When they had sat down to their frugal meal and begun to eat, 
there was a knock at the door of the house. One of the friars 
rose and opened it, and there stood a woman carrying a large 
hamper full of fine bread, fish, crayfish patties, honey and fresh 

136 



grapes, which had been sent to blessed Francis by tie lady of a 
castle about seven miles away. 
The friars and the doctor were amazed and delighted when 

they saw this, and recalling the holiness of blessed Francis, they 
ascribed it wholly to his merits. Then the doctor said to the 
friars, 'My brothers, neither you nor we realize the great holiness 
of this man !' 

Ill 

On the fish that he craved during his illness. 

ON another occasion, when blessed Francis was very ill in the 

palace of the Bishop of Assisi, the friars begged him to take some 
nourishment. *I have no inclination to eat,* he replied, 'but if I 
could have a little angel-fish I might be able to eat it* 

No sooner had he spoken than a man came in carrying 
a basket containing three large and well-cooked angel-fish^ 
together with some crayfish delicacies which had been sent him 
by Brother Gerard, the Minister at RietL And the holy Father 
ate these with pleasure. The friars were amazed at God's 
providence, and praised the Lord Who had provided these things 
for His servant, for such food was unobtainable in Assisi during 
the winter. 

112 

On the food and doth that he wanted at his death. 

ONE day at S. Mary of the Angels, during blessed Francis's last 
illness which was to cause his death, he called Ms companions 
together and said, * You know how the Lady Jacoba of Settesoli 
has been and is most faithful .and devoted to our Order and to 
me. I am sure that she will regard it as a great favour and 
consolation if you inform her of my condition. Ask her especi- 
ally to send me some plain ashen-coloured cloth, and with it 

137 



some of that sweetmeat that she has often made for me in the 
City,' (This Is the sweetmeat which the people of Rome call 
mostacdoli, and is made of almonds, sugar, and other ingredients.) 
For the Lady Jacoba was a sincerely spiritual woman, and 
belonged to one of the noblest and richest families in the whole 
of Rome. Through the merits and preaching of blessed Francis 
she had received such grace from God that she seemed like 
another Magdalene, full of tears and devotion for the love and 
sweetness of Christ. 

So the brethren wrote a letter as the Saint had instructed them, 
and one of the friars went to find a brother to take the letter to 
the lady. But suddenly there was a knock at the friary gate, and 
when one of the friars opened it, there stood the Lady Jacoba, 
who had come in great haste to visit blessed Francis. Directly 
he knew this, one of the friars hastened to blessed Francis and 
told him with much joy how the Lady Jacoba had arrived from 
Rome with her son and many other people to visit him. *What 
shall we do, Father?' he inquired. * Shall we allow her to enter 
and come to you?' (He asked this because in order to preserve 
good order and devotion at S. Mary's, blessed Francis had made 
a rule that no woman should enter the enclosure.) Blessed 
Francis replied, 'This rule need not be observed in the case of 
Lady Jacoba, whose faith and devotion have impelled her to 
travel here from such a distance.' 

So Lady Jacoba came in to blessed Francis, and when she saw 
him, she wept. Wonderful to relate, she had brought ashen- 
coloured cloth for a habit, and everything mentioned in the 
letter as though she had already received it. And she told the 
friars, *My brothers, while I was at prayer I was told in spirit, 
**Go and visit your Father, blessed Francis. Hurry, and do not 
delay, for you will not find him alive if you wait long. And 
take with you this cloth for a habit, and such and such things, 
and make him some of that sweetmeat. Take with you also a 
large amount of wax for candles, and some incense." ' (All these 

138 



things, with the exception of the incense, had been mentioned 
in the letter that was about to be sent.) 

So God, Who had guided the kings to go with gifts to honour 
His Son, also inspired this noble and holy lady to go with gifts 
to honour His best-beloved servant on the day of his death, 
which was rather the day of his true birth. Then Lady Jacoba 
prepared the food that the holy Father had wished to eat, but 
he could only take a little of it because he was steadily growing 
weaker and drawing nearer to death. She also had many candles 
made to burn before his most holy body after death, and from 
the cloth the friars made him the habit in which he was buried. 
But he told the friars to sew him in sack-cloth as a sign of holy 
Humility and of the Lady Poverty. And during the week in 
which Lady Jacoba arrived, our most holy Father passed away 
to the Lord. 



139 



PART XI 

ON HIS LOVE FOR CREATURES, AND OF 
CREATURES FOR HIM 



113 

Firstly, on his especial love for hooded larks, because to him they were 
an image of the good Religious. 

BEING completely absorbed in the love of God, blessed Francis 
clearly perceived the goodness of God both within his own 
soul, already endowed with perfect virtue, and in all created 
things, so he therefore had an especial and profound love for 
God's creatures, and especially for those which he thought of 
as representing some truth about God or religion. 

Above all birds he loved the little lark, known in the language 
of the country as lodola capellata (the hooded lark). He used to 
say of it, 'Sister lark has a hood like a Religious and is a humble 
bird, for she walks contentedly along the road to find grain, and 
even if she finds it among rubbish, she pecks it out and eats it. 
As she flies she praises God very sweetly, like good Religious 
who despise earthly things, whose minds are set on the things of 
heaven, and whose constant purpose is to praise God. Her 
plumage resembles the earth, and she sets an example to Reli- 
gions not to wear fine and gaudy clothing, but cloth of a humble 
price and colour, just as earth is inferior to the other elements.' 

Because he saw these things in them, he always looked on 
them with great pleasure, so it pleased God that these little birds 
should give him a sign of affection at the hour of his death. For 
kte that Saturday evening, after Vespers on the night when he 

140 



passed away to the Lord, a great flight of larks assembled above 
the roof of the house where he lay. And they circled around it 
in the form of a wheel, singing sweetly as they flew and seeming 
to praise God. 



114 

How he wanted to persuade the Emperor to enact an especial law 

requiring everyone to provide generously for birds, cattle, asses, and 

the poor on Christmas Day. 

WE who were with blessed Francis and write about these events 
testify that we have often heard him say, 'If I ever speak to the 
Emperor, I shall beg him for love of God and myself to enact 
an especial kw, forbidding anyone to kill our sisters the larks or 
do them any harm. Similarly, all mayors of towns and lords of 
castles and villages should be obliged each year on the Nativity 
of our Lord to see that their people scatter wheat and other 
grain on the roads outside towns and villages, so that our sisters 
the larks and other birds may have food on such a solemn 
festival. And in reverence for the Son of God, Who with the 
most blessed Virgin Mary rested in a manger that night between 
an ox and an ass, anyone who owns an ox or an ass should be 
obliged to give them the choicest of fodder on Christmas Eve. 
And on Christmas Day the rich should give an abundance of 
good things to all the poor/ 

For blessed Francis had a deeper veneration for the Nativity 
of our Lord than for other festivals, and he said, 'Since our Lord 
has been born for us, it is for us to accept salvation.* He wanted 
every Christian to rejoice in the Lord on that day, and for love 
of Him Who gave Himself for us, he wished everyone to 
provide generously not only for the poor, but for beasts and 
birds as well. 



141 



115 

On the love and obedience of fire to blessed Francis when he was 

cauterized. 

WHEN blessed Francis came to the hermitage of Fonte Colombo 
to undergo a cure for his eyes which he did under obedience 
to the orders of the Lord Cardinal of Ostia and of Brother Elias 
the Minister General the doctor came to visit him one day. 
When he had examined him, he told blessed Francis that he 
wished to make a cautery from the jaw up to the eyebrow of 
the weaker eye. But because Brother Elias had expressed a 
desire to be present when the doctor began the operation, 
blessed Francis did not wish the treatment to begin until Brother 
Elias's arrival. The Father was also much disturbed at being the 
object of so much attention, and wanted the Minister General 
to be responsible for giving instructions. But Elias had been 
delayed by much business, and when they had waited for him 
in vain, blessed Francis at length asked the doctor to proceed. 
When the iron had been placed in the fire to make the cautery, 
blessed Francis was afraid that he might show weakness, and 
wishing to strengthen his resolution, spoke to the fire, saying, 
'Brother Fire, so noble and useful among other creatures, be 
gentle to me in this hour, for I have always loved you and will 
always do so for love of Him Who created you. I pray our 
Creator, Who made us, to temper your heat so that I can bear 
it/ And as he ended this prayer, he blessed the fire with the sign 
of the cross. At this moment we who were with him were so 
overcome with pity and compassion for him that we all fled, 
and left him alone with the doctor. When the cautery was 
completed we came back, and he said, 'Faint-hearts ! Men of 
little faith ! Why did you run away? I assure you that I felt no 
pain or heat from the fire. Indeed, if this cautery does not 
satisfy the doctor, let him do it again/ The doctor was amazed 
at his words, and said, *My brothers, I would be afraid to apply 

142 



so drastic a cautery to the strongest man, let alone to one who 
is so frail and ill. But he did not flinch or betray the least sign 
of pain/ Although all the veins from the ear to the eyebrow 
had been seared, this operation did not benefit him, nor did a 
second, when another doctor pierced both his ears with a red-hot 
iron. 

It is not surprising that fire and other creatures sometimes 
obeyed and revered him, for we who were with him often saw 
how much he loved them, and what pleasure he took in them. 
Indeed, his spirit was stirred by such love and compassion for 
them that he would not allow them to be treated without 
respect. He used to speak to them as though they were rational 
creatures with such inward and outward joy that at times he 
was rapt in ecstasy. 

116 

How he would not allow the fire that had burned Ms under-linen to 
be extinguished. 

AMONG all lesser created things blessed Francis had an especial 
love for fire, because of its beauty and usefulness, and would not 
allow it to be denied its natural function. Once while he was 
sitting close to the fire, his linen underclothes caught fire near 
the knee without his notice; and although he felt the heat, he 
was unwilling to put out the flames. Seeing his clothes alight, 
his companion ran to put out the flame, but blessed Francis 
would not allow it, saying, 'Dearest brother, do not hurt Brother 
Fire !' So his companion ran to the friar who was Guardian and 
brought him to blessed Francis, and against his wishes the 
Guardian beat out the flames. But so dearly did he love fire that, 
however pressing the need, he would never put out a flame, 
whether a lamp or a candle. And he would not allow any friar 
to throw burning or smouldering wood from one place to 
another, as is often done; he wished them to lay it properly on 
the ground out of reverence for God Who created it. 

143 



117 

How he would never again use a fleece because he had not allowed 
Brother Fire to burn it. 

ONE day, while lie was observing Lent on Mount La Verna, his 
companion laid a fire at dinner time in the cell where lie used 
to eat. When the fire was alight he went to fetch blessed Francis 
from another cell where he was at prayer, and took a missal 
with him in order to read him the Gospel for the day; for 
whenever he had been unable to hear Mass, the Father always 
wished to hear the Gospel for the day read before his meal. 

On returning to the cell where he had lit a fire to cook the 
meal, the friar found that the flames had already reached the 
roof and were burning it. He did his best to extinguish the 
flames, but could not do so single-handed, and blessed Francis 
was unwilling to help him. His only action was to pick up a 
fleece that he used as a covering at night, and go away with it 
into a wood. But when the other friars, who were living some 
distance away, saw his cell burning down, they ran at once and 
put out the fire. Some time later blessed Francis returned for a 
meal, and when he had eaten, he said to his companions, *I shall 
not use this fleece over me again, for in my avarice I would not 
allow Brother Fire to consume it.' 



118 

On his especial love for water, rocks, wood, and flowers. 

NEXT to fire he had an especial love for water, because it sym- 
bolizes holy penitence and tribulation, and at Baptism the soul 
is cleansed from its stains and receives its first purification. So 
whenever he washed his hands he chose a place where the water 
would not be trodden underfoot as it fell to the ground. For the 
same reason, whenever he had to walk over rocks, he trod 

144 



reverently and fearfully, out of love for Christ Who is called 
The Rock: so whenever he recited the psalm Thou wilt set me 
high up on a rock, he used to say with great reverence and devo- 
tion, Thou hast set me up at the foot of the rock. 

He told the friar who cut and chopped wood for the fire that 
he must never cut down the whole tree, but remove branches 
in such a way that part of the tree remained intact, out of love 
for Christ, Who willed to accomplish our salvation on the wood 
of the cross. 

In the same way he told the friar who cared for the gardens 
not to cultivate all the ground for vegetables, but to set aside a 
plot to grow flowers to bloom in their season, out of love for 
Him Who is called The Rose on the plain and the Lily on the 
mountain slopes. Indeed, he told the brother-gardener that he 
should always make a pleasant flower-garden, and cultivate 
every variety of fragrant herb and flowering plant, so that all 
who saw the herbs and flowers would be moved to praise God. 
For every creature proclaims, 'God made me for your sake, O 
man.' 

We who were with him have seen him take inward and out- 
ward delight in almost every creature, and when he handled or 
looked at them his spirit seemed to be in heaven rather than on 
earth. And not long before his death, in gratitude for the many 
consolations that he had received through creatures, he com- 
posed The Praises of the Lord in His Creatures, in order to stir the 
hearts of those who heard them to the praise of God, and to 
move men to praise the Lord Himself in His creatures. 

119 

How he praised the sun and jire above all other creatures. 

ABOVE all creatures unendowed with reason he had a particular 
love for the sun and for fire. He used to say, 'At dawn, when 
the sun rises, all men should praise God, Who created him for 

145 



our use, and through him gives light to our eyes by day. And 
at nightfall every man should praise God for Brother Fire, by 
whom He gives light to our eyes in the darkness. For we are 
all blind, and by these two brothers of ours God gives light to 
our eyes, so we should give special praise to our Creator for 
these and other creatures that serve us day by day/ 

Blessed Francis himself always offered this praise until the day 
of his death, and even when his illness grew more serious he 
used to sing The Praises of the Lord in His Creatures which he had 
composed. Later he asked his companions to sing them, so that 
their occupation with the praises of God might make them 
forget the bitterness of his suffering and disease. And since in 
Holy Scripture the Lord Himself is called The Sun of Justice, 
and because blessed Francis thought the sun the loveliest of 
God's creatures and most worthy of comparison with Him, 
he gave its name to the Praises of God in His Creatures 
which he had written when the Lord had assured him of His 
Kingdom. And he called them The Song of Brother Sun. 

120 

The Praises that he composed when the Lord assured him of His 

kingdom. 

MOST High, Almighty, good Lord, 

Thine be the praise, the glory, the honour, 

And all blessing. 

To Thee alone, Most High, are they due, 

And no man is worthy 

To speak Thy Name. 

Praise to Thee, my Lord, for all Thy creatures, 

Above all Brother Sun 
Who brings us the day and lends us his light. 

146 



Lovely is he, radiant with great splendour, 

And speaks to us of Thee, 

O Most High. 

Praise to Thee, my Lord, for Sister Moon and the stars 

Which Thou hast set in the heavens, 

Clear, precious, and fair. 

Praise to Thee, my Lord, for Brother Wind, 

For air and cloud, for calm and all weather, 

By which Thou supportest life in all Thy creatures. 

Praise to Thee, my Lord, for Sister Water, 

Who is so useful and humble, 
Precious and pure. 

Praise to Thee, my Lord, for Brother Fire, 

By whom Thou lightest the night; 
He is lovely and pleasant, mighty and strong. 

Praise to Thee, my Lord, for our sister Mother Earth 

Who sustains and directs us, 
And brings forth varied fruits, and coloured flowers, and plants. 

Praise to Thee, my Lord, for those who pardon one another 

For love of Thee, and endure 

Sickness and tribulation. 

Blessed are they who shall endure it in peace, 

For they shall be crowned by Thee, 

O Most High. 

Praise to Thee, my Lord, for our Sister bodily Death 

From whom no man living may escape: 

Woe to those who die in mortal sin. 

147 



Blessed are they who are found in Thy most holy will, 
For the second death cannot harm them. 

Praise and bless my Lord, 

Thank Him and serve Him 

With great humility. 



148 



PART XII 

ON HIS DEATH, AND THE JOY THAT HE SHOTTED 

WHEN HE KNEW THAT DEATH WAS 

DRAWING NEAR 



121 

Firstly, how he answered Brother Elias when the latter reproved him 
for his obvious joy. 

WHEN lie was lying ill in the episcopal palace at Assisi, die hand 
of God appeared to press upon him more heavily than usual, 
and the people of Assisi feared that if he were to die during the 
night, the friars might take his holy body and carry it to some 
other place. So they arranged to post men on guard around the 
walls of the palace each night. 

To comfort his soul and strengthen his resolution during the 
violent attacks of pain that constantly racked him, blessed 
Francis often asked his companions to sing Mm the Praises of the 
Lord during the day, and to do so during the night to edify and 
console those who were keeping watch outside the palace on 
his account. 

Seeing that blessed Francis was comforted and rejoicing in the 
Lord in this way despite his great pain, Brother EHas said to 
him, 'Dearest Brother, the great joy shown by you and your 
companions gives me great comfort and edification. But the 
people of this -city venerate you as a saint, and are weE aware 
that you will soon die of your incurable disease; so when they 
hear the Praises sung day and night they are likely to say to 
themselves, "How can this man show so much joy when he is 
about to die? He ought to be preparing himself for death." * 

149 



Blessed Francis said to him, 'Do you remember the vision that 
you saw at Foligno, when you told me that it had been revealed 
to you that I had only two years to live? Before you had this 
vision, by the grace of God Who implants all good things in 
our hearts and inspires the words of the faithful, 1 often meditated 
upon my end both by day and by night. And after you had that 
vision, I was even more careful to give daily thought to my 
death.' Then he continued in great fervour of spirit, 'Brother, 
allow me in my infirmities to rejoice in the Lord and in His praises, 
for by the grace and assistance of the Holy Spirit I am so united 
and conjoined to my Lord that by His mercy I may rightly 
rejoice in Him, the Most High.' 



122 



How he persuaded a doctor to tell him how long he had to live. 

Ax that time a doctor from Arrezzo named John Buono, a close 
friend of blessed Francis, came to visit him in the bishop's palace, 
and blessed Francis asked him, 'Finiate, what do you think about 
this dropsical disease of mine?' (For he would never call him 
by his proper name (Buono-Good), because he never addressed 
anyone who was called Good by their name out of reverence 
for the Lord, Who said, God is good, and He only. For the 
same reason he would never call anyone Father or faster, or 
use these tides in a letter, out of reverence for our Lord, Who 
said, Nor are you to call any man on earth your father. Nor are 
you to be called teachers.) 

The doctor said to him, 'Brother, God willing, all will be 
well with you/ Again blessed Francis said to him, *Tell me the 
truth. What is your real opinion? Don't be afraid to tell me, 
for by God's grace I am not such a coward as to fear death. By 
the grace and help of the Holy Spirit I am so united to my 
Lord that I am equally content to die or to live.' 

Then the doctor told him frankly, 'Father, according to our 

150 



medical knowledge your disease is incurable, and it is my belief 
that you will die either at the end of September or in early 
October/ Then blessed Francis, lying on his bed, most rever- 
ently and devoutly stretched out his hands to God, and with 
great joy of mind and body, said, 'Welcome, Sister Death/ 

123 

How, as soon as he heard of his approaching death, he ordered the 
Praises that he had written to be sung. 

AFTER this, one of the friars said to him, 'Father, your life and 
teaching have been, and remain, a light and mirror not only to 
your friars but to the whole Church, and your death will be the 
same. And although your passing will be an occasion of sorrow 
and grief to your brethren and many others, to you it will bring 
consolation and infinite joy. For you will pass from great toil 
to great repose, from many sorrows and temptations to eternal 
peace, from earthly poverty, which you have always loved and 
observed perfectly, to true and boundless riches, from death in 
this world to everlasting life in which you will see the Lord your 
God face to face, and gaze on Him Whom you have loved with 
such fervent love and desire in this life.' Then he said frankly, 
'Father, you already know for certain that, unless the Lord sends 
you healing from heaven, your disease is incurable, and the 
doctors have said that you have only a short while to live. But 
I have spoken as I have to strengthen your spirit, so that you 
may continue to rejoice in the Lord both inwardly and out- 
wardly. So the friars and others who visit you will always find 
you rejoicing in the Lord, and both to those who see it and 
others who hear of it after your passing not only your life and 
teaching but your death itself will be an everlasting memorial.* 
Although blessed Francis was in greater pain from his diseases 
than usual, when he heard that Sister Death was fast approaching, 
he was filled with fresh joy, and praised the Lord in great fervour 

151 



of spirit, saying, 'If it be my Lord's pleasure that I should die 
soon, call me Brother Angdo and Brother Leo, and let them 
sing to me of Sister Death.' And when these two friars, filled 
with, sorrow and grief, had come to him, they sang with many 
tears the Song of Brother Sun and the other creatures which the 
Saint had written. And before the last verse of the Song, he 
added these lines on Sister Death; 

Praised be Thou, my Lord, for Sister Bodily Death 
From whom no man living may escape. 

Woe to those who die in mortal sin, 

And blessed are those who are found in Thy most holy will, 
For the second death can do them no ill. 



124 

How he blessed the city of Assist while he was leing carried to die at 

S. Marfs. 

THE most holy Father had now been informed by the Holy 
Spirit as well as by the doctors that his death was near. Hitherto 
he had been lodged in the bishop's palace, but when he felt 
himself growing steadily worse and his bodily powers failing, 
he asked to be carried on a litter to S. Mary of the Porziuncula, 
so that his bodily life should draw to its close in the place where 
his spiritual life and light had come into being. 

When the brethren who were carrying him arrived at the 
hospice standing by the road half-way between Assisi and 
S. Mary's, he asked the bearers to set the litter on the ground. 
And although his long-standing and severe disease of the eyes 
had almost deprived him of sight, he had the litter turned to 
face the city of Assisi. Raising himself a little, he blessed the 
city, saying, 'Lord, it is said that in former days this city was 
the haunt of wicked men. But now it is clear that of Thine 

152 



infinite mercy and in Thine own time Thou hast been pleased 
to shower especial and abundant favours upon it. Of Thy 
goodness alone Thou hast chosen it for Thyself, that it may 
become the home and dwelling of those who know Thee in 
truth and glorify Thy holy Name, and spread abroad the 
fragrance of a good report, of holy life, of true doctrine, and of 
evangelical perfection to all Christian people. I therefore 
beseech Thee, O Lord Jesus Christ, Father of mercies, that Thou 
wilt not remember our ingratitude, but ever be mindful of 
Thine abundant compassion which Thou hast showed towards 
it, that it may ever be the home -and dwelling-place of those 
who know Thee in truth and glorify Thy blessed and most 
glorious Name for ever and ever. Amen/ 

When he had ended his prayer, he was carried on to S. Mary's. 
There, on October the third, 1226, in the fortieth year of his 
life and after twenty years of perfect penitence, he departed to 
the Lord Jesus Christ, Whom he had loved with all his heart, 
with all his mind, with all his soul, and all his strength, with the 
most ardent desire and with utter devotion, following Him 
perfectly, hastening swiftly in His footsteps, and at last coming 
in the greatest glory to Him Who lives and reigns with the 
Father and the Holy Spirit for ever and ever. Amen. 

Here ends the Mirror of Perfection, 

which tells of the state of die Friar Minor, 

and in which the perfection of his vocation and profession 

may be seen accurately reflected. 

All praise and glory to God the Father, and to the Son, and to 

the Holy Spirit. 

ALLELUIA ! ALIELUIA ! ALLELUIA ! 

Honour and exaltation to His most blessed servant Francis. 

ALLELUIA ! 

Amen. 



153 



THE WRITINGS OF ST. FRANCIS 



THE PRAYERS AND PRAISES 
OF SAINT FRANCIS 



A PARAPHRASE OF THE LORD'S PRAYER 

This lovely prayer is found in all manuscripts, and is undoubtedly 
from the hand of the Saint. It is referred to in chapter 82 of the Mirror 
of Perfection, where any friar guilty of idle talk is required to recite 
this Our Father and the Praises as penance. Saint Francis ordered 
them to be said at all the day and night Hours, and before the Office 
of the Blessed Virgin Mary. 

OUR FATHER, 
most holy, 

Creator, 
Redeemer, 

Saviour, 
Comforter, 

WHO ART IN HEAV1N, 

in the Angels and Saints 
enlightening them to knowledge of Thee, 

for Thou, Lord, art Light; 
inflaming them to love of Thee, 

for Thou, Lord, art Love; 

dwelling in them, and filling them with blessing, 

for Thou, Lord, art the highest good, 

the eternal good, 

from Whom all good proceeds, 

without Whom nothing is good, 

157 



HALLOWED BE THY NAME, 

may it be glorified in us 

by knowledge of Thee, 

that we may perceive 

the wideness of Thy blessings, 

the extent of Thy promises, 

the height of Thy majesty, 

the depth of Thy judgements. 

THY KINGDOM COME, 

that Thou mayest reign in us 

by Thy grace, 

and bring us to Thy kingdom, 
where the vision of Thee is revealed, 

and Thy love made perfect, 

that we may enter Thy blessed presence, 

and enjoy Thee for ever. 

THY WILL BE BONE IN EARTH 
AS IT IS DONE IN HEAVEN, 

that we may love Thee with all our heart, 

ever thinking of Thee, 
and desiring Thee with all our soul 

and with all our mind; 

directing all our intentions to Thee, 

and seeking Thine honour in all things; 

with all our strength 

devoting every power and faculty 

of rnind and body to the service of Thy love, 

and to no other end. 

May we also love our neighbours as ourselves, 

drawing them to love of Thee 

with all our power; 

158 




Leonard von Matt 



S. CLARE'S GARDEN AT SAN DAMIANO 
Where S. Francis first sang the Canticle of the Sun 



delighting in the good of others 

as in our own, 

sharing in their troubles, 

and giving no offence to any. 

GIVE US THIS DAY OUR DAILY BREAD, 

which is Thy beloved Son 

Jesus Christ our Lord, 
in the remembrance, understanding, and reverence 

of the love that He bore us, 

and for the things that He said, did, and endured 

for our sakes. 

AND FORGIVE US OUR TRESPASSES 

through Thine Infinite mercy, 

and by virtue of the Passion 

of Thy beloved Son our Lord 

Jesus Christ, 

and through the merits and prayers 

of the most blessed Virgin Mary 

and of all Thine elect. 

As WE FORGIVE THEM THAT TRESPASS AGAINST US, 

and since we do not forgive fully 
do Thou, Lord, enable us to forgive fully 

so that we may truly love our enemies 

for Thy sake, 
and pray them devoutly to Thee, 

not returning evil for evil, 
but seeking to serve all men in Thee. 

AND LEAD US NOT INTO TEMPTATION, 

hidden or open, 

sudden or persistent, 

159 



BUT DELIVER US FROM EVIL, 

past, 

present, 
and to come. 

AMEN. 



THE PRAISES OF THE T3EUNITY 

HOLY, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty, 

Who is and Who was and Who is to come. 

Let us praise and exalt Him above all for ever. 

Worthy art Thou, O Lord our God, to receive praise, glory, 

honour and blessing. 

Let us praise and exalt Him above all for ever. 

Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and divinity, 

wisdom and strength, honour, glory, and blessing. 

Let us praise and exalt Him above all for ever. 

Let us bless the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, 

Let us praise and exalt Him above all for ever. 

All ye works of the Lord, bless ye the Lord. 

Let us praise and exalt Him above all for ever. 

Praise God, all ye His servants, and ye that fear Him, both small 

and great. 
Let us praise and exalt Him above all for ever. 

Let heaven and earth praise His glory. 
And every creature that is in heaven, and on earth, and under 

the earth. 

Let us praise and exalt Him above all for ever. 

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, 

As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, 

world without end. 

Amen. 

160 



ALMIGHTY, most holy, most high and supreme God, highest 
good, all good, wholly good, Who alone art good; We offer 
Thee all praise, all glory, all thanks, all honour, all blessing, and 
will ever ascribe all good to Thee. Amen. 



ffl 

THE SONG OF BROTHER SUN 
AND OF ALL CREATURES 

Blind, weak, and in great pain, Saint Francis passed seven weeks 
in the summer of 1225 at San Damiano, where Saint Clare had 
lovingly prepared for him a little hut of rush matting in the garden 9 
in the hope that rest and quiet would assist his recovery. Despite great 
suffering he never lost his serenity and joy, and receiving one night 
an assurance of future blessedness, he composed this canticle of praise 
in his native Italian, and taught the brethren to sing it to the people 
when they preached. Not long afterwards the Bishop and Mayor of 
Assist had a serious dispute, and the Saint composed the stanza 
* Praise to Thee, my Lord, for those who pardon one another,' and sent 
some friars to sing it before them to effect a reconciliation. Two years 
later, at the approach of death, he called on Brother Leo and Brother 
Angela to sing the Canticle to him, and added the stanza, 'Praised be 
my Lord for our Sister Death. 9 

It should perhaps be mentioned that the Italian per can mean both 
for and by, which makes it uncertain whether Francis is praising God 
for His creatures, or asking that God may be praised by His creatures, 
as in the Benedicite. The general sense, especially those of the last 
stanzas, seems to favour the first meaning. 

MOST High, Almighty, good Lord, 

Thine be the praise, the glory, the honour, 

And all blessing. 

161 



To Thee alone, Most High, are they due, 
And no man is worthy 
To speak Thy Name. 

Praise to Thee, my Lord, for all Thy creatures, 

Above all Brother Sun 
Who brings us the day and lends us his light. 

Lovely is he, radiant with great splendour, 

And speaks to us of Thee, 

O Most High. 

Praise to Thee, my Lord, for Sister Moon and the stars 
Which Thou hast set in the heavens, 

Clear, precious, and fair. 

Praise to Thee, my Lord, for Brother Wind, 

For air and cloud, for calm and all weather, 

By which Thou supportest life in all Thy creatures. 

Praise to Thee, my Lord, for Sister Water, 

Who is so useful and humble, 

Precious and pure. 

Praise to Thee, my Lord, for Brother Fire, 

By whom Thou lightest the night; 
He is lovely and pleasant, mighty and strong. 

Praise to Thee, my Lord, for our sister Mother Earth 
Who sustains and directs us, 

And brings forth varied fruits, and coloured flowers, and plants. 

Praise to Thee, my Lord, for those who pardon one another 

For love of Thee, and endure 

Sickness and tribulation. 

Blessed are they who shall endure it in peace, 

For they shall be crowned by Thee, 

O Most High. 

162 



Praise to Thee, my Lord, for our Sister bodily Death 

From whom no man living may escape: 

Woe to those who die in mortal sin. 

Blessed are they who are found in Thy most holy will, 
For the second death cannot harm them. 

Praise and bless my Lord, 

Thank Him and serve Him 
With great humility. 



IV 



SAINT FRANCIS'S BLESSING OF BROTHER LEO 

Both Saint Bonaventura and Thomas o/Celano tell us that shortly 
after the holy Father had received the imprint of the sacred Stigmata 
he called on Brother Leo to bring him a pen and parchment, so that he 
could ivrite down some praises of God. As he was writing it seems 
to have entered his understanding heart that there was nothing in the 
world that Leo wanted more dearly than some sacred words written in 
his master's hand. So having written the Praises, Francis added a 
blessing for Brother Leo in the words of Holy Scripture, saying 9 
'Take this parchment and keep it carefully to the day of your death. 
It will immediately put every temptation to flight. 9 

THE Lord bless you and keep you. 

May He show you His face and be merciful to you. 
May He turn His countenance to you, and give you peace. 
The Lord bless you, *J< Brother Leo. 

163 



The original, worn and creased by its years in the breast of Brother 
Leo's robe, is reverently preserved at Assist. In the margin Leo has 
written, 'Two years before his death, Saint Francis fasted on Mount 
La Verna in honour of the blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Lord, 
and of S. Michael the Archangel, which fast lasted from the feast of 
the Assumption until the feast ofS. Michael in September. And the 
hand of the Lord rested upon him. And after the vision and the words 
of the seraph, and the imprinting of the wounds of Christ on his body, 
he wrote these praises on the other side of the parchment, and with 
his own hand gave thanks to God for the favour conferred on him. 9 
A little way below is added, 'Blessed Francis wrote this blessing with 
his own hand for me, Brother LeoJ 

THOU alone art holy, Lord God, Who doest wondrous things. 

Thou art strong. Thou art great. Thou art the Most High. 
Thou art the Almighty King, the Holy Father, King of heaven 

and earth. 

Thou art Trinity and Unity, O Lord God, All Goodness. 
Thou art Good, All Good, the Supreme Good, 

Lord God, living and true. 

Thou art Charity and Love. Thou art Wisdom. 

Thou art Humility. Thou art Patience. 

Thou art Serenity. Thou art Peace. 

Thou art Joy and Gladness. Thou art Justice and Temperance. 
Thou art our Wealth, our Treasure, and our Satisfaction. 

Thou art Beauty. Thou art Clemency. 

Thou art our Protector. Thou art our Guardian and Defender. 

Thou art Strength. Thou art Refreshment. 

Thou art our Hope, Thou art our Trust. 

Thou art our Delight, Thou art Eternal Life, 

Great and wondrous Lord, 

Almighty God, 

Merciful Saviour. 



164 



THE PRAISES OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY 

This is described in some manuscripts as a 'Praise of the virtues 
with which the Blessed Virgin was adorned, and which should adorn 
a holy soul 9 

KAIL, holy Lady, most holy Queen, Mary Mother of God, who 
remainest ever-Virgin, chosen by the most holy Father in 
heaven, Who with the most holy and beloved Son and the 
Holy Spirit hallowed thee, in whom abode and still abides the 
fullness of grace and every blessing. 

Hail, His Palace. Hail, His Dwelling. Hail, His Home. Hail, 
His Robe. Hail, His Handmaid. Hail, His Mother. And hail, 
all ye holy virtues which by the grace and illumination of the 
Holy Spirit are poured into the hearts of the faithful, so that 
you may transform them from unbelief to faith in God. 



VI 

IN PRAISE OF THE VIRTUES 

WHICH ADORNED THE HOLY VIRGIN, AND WHICH SHOULD ADORN 
A HOLY SOUL 

This is probably the praise of the virtues mentioned by Thomas of 
Celano in his second Life (Chap. 189). 

HAIL, Queen Wisdom, 
The Lord keep thee and thy holy sister, pure Simplicity. 

Hail, Lady holy Poverty, 
The Lord keep thee and thy holy sister Humility. 

Hail, Lady holy Charity, 

The Lord keep thee and thy holy sister Obedience. 
165 



Hail, all ye most holy Virtues, 

May the Lord keep you, 
For it is from Him alone that you derive. 

No one in all the world may possess a single one of you unless 
he first dies to self. He who possesses one and does not offend 
against the others possesses all. But he who offends against one 
possesses none and offends against all. 

Each of the Virtues overcomes vices and sins. Holy Wisdom 
overcomes Satan and all his malice. Pure and holy Simplicity 
overcomes all the wisdom of this world and all carnal wisdom. 
Holy Poverty overcomes all the greed, avarice, and desires of 
this world. Holy Humility overcomes pride, together with all 
who love this world, and all the things of this world. Holy 
Charity overcomes all the temptations of the devil and the 
flesh, and all the fears of the flesh. Holy Obedience overcomes 
all carnal desires, and keeps the body under discipline, ready to 
obey its brother the spirit; it renders a man submissive to all 
things in this world, not only to men but even to wild beasts, 
so that they may do their will with him in whatsoever way 
God may permit. 

vn 
TWO PRAYERS 

Of the prayer 'Absorbeat, quaeso, Domine . . .' Luke Wadding in 
his 'Annales Minomm (pub. between 1625-1654) says, 'That 
Francis is the author of this prayer is attested by Saint Bemadine in 
his Sermon LX, and by Ubertino (Ubertino da Casale, d. 1338) in 

his *' ''Arbor Vitae Crucifixae"' 

O LOSJD Jesus Christ, I pray Thee that the fiery and honey-sweet 
power of Thy love may detach my soul from everything under 
heaven, so that I may die for love of Thy love, Who out of love 

for Thy people didst die on the tree of the Cross. 

166 



This prayer concludes the Saint's 'Letter to the Chapter General 
and all the friars, 9 and crystallizes his desire that the Order remain 
loyal to its original spirit and purpose. 

ALMIGHTY, eternal, just, and merciful God, grant us wretched 
sinners for Thy sake to do what we know to be Thy will, and 
always to will whatsoever pleases Thee; so that, inwardly 
cleansed and enlightened, and warmed by the fire of the Holy 
Spirit, we may be enabled to follow in the footsteps of Thy 
Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, and by grace alone come to Thee, 
O Most High, Who in perfect Trinity and undivided Unity 
Hvest and reignest in glory, God Almighty, for ever and ever. 



VHI 
AN ANTIPHON OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN 

HOLY Virgin Mary, there is none like thee among women bom 
into this world, daughter and handmaid of the most high King, 
the heavenly Father, Mother of our most holy Lord Jesus Christ, 
Spouse of the Holy Spirit. Pray for us, with Saint Michael the 
Archangel, all the powers of heaven, and all the Saints to thy 
beloved and most holy Son, our Lord and Master. 

(From the Office of the Passion.) 



167 



THE COUNSELS OF THE HOLY FATHER 
SAINT FRANCIS 

The Counsels of Saint Francis are accepted as authentic by all 
authorities, but we have no means of knowing when they were written, 
or the exact circumstances that called for them. It has been suggested 
that they are pronouncements made by the Saint at various Pentecost 
Chapters and recorded at the time. But whatever their original back- 
ground may have been, they faithfully reflect the spirit and outlook 
of Saint Francis. 



On the Body of Christ 

OUR Lord Jesus Christ said to His disciples, I am the Way; I am 
Truth and Life; nobody can come to the Father except through Me. 
If you had learned to recognize Me, you would have learned to 
recognize My Father too. From now onwards you are to recognize 
Him; you have seen Him. Philip said to Him, Lord, let us see the 
Father; that is all we ask. Jesus said to him, What, Philip, here am I, 
Who have been all this while in your company; hast thou not learned 
to recognize Me yet? Whoever has seen Me, has seen the Father. 

The Father dwells in unapproachable light, and God is a spirit, 
and no man has ever seen God. Because God is a spirit, He cannot 
be seen except in the spirit; for only the spirit gives life; the flesh 
is of no avail. Nor is the Son, Who is equal to the Father, seen 
by any but the Father and the Holy Spirit. Therefore, all who 
have seen the Lord Jesus Christ in His Humanity without seeing 
or believing in His spirit and divinity, and without believing 
that He is the Son of God, are condemned. In the same way, 
those who see the Sacrament of Christ's Body, which is hallowed 

168 



by the words of our Lord at the altar in the hands of His priest 
under the forms of bread and wine, and who do not recognize 
His spirit and divinity, believing It to be truly the most holy 
Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, are condemned out 
of the mouth of Almighty God Himself, Who testifies: This is 
My Body and Blood of the New Testament; and Whoso eateth My 
Flesh and drinketh My Blood hath eternal life. 

So he who has the spirit of God, which dwells in those who 
have faith in Him, is he who rightly receives the most holy Body 
and Blood of the Lord. All others, who possess nothing of this 
spirit and yet presume to receive the Sacrament, eat and drink 
damnation to themselves. Therefore we read: Sons of men, will 
your hearts always be hardened? Why do you not acknowledge 
the truth, and believe in the Son of God? See how He humbles 
Himself daily, for just as He descended from His royal throne 
into the Virgin's womb, so does He come to us day by day in 
humble form. Daily He descends from the bosom of the Father 
to the altar in the hands of the priest. And as He once appeared 
to the holy Apostles in true flesh, so does He reveal Himself to 
us in the hallowed bread. And as they gazed on Him, with their 
bodily eyes and saw only His human nature, although when 
they contempkted Him with the eyes of the spirit they knew 
Him to be God, so we, as we look on the bread and wine with. 
our bodily eyes, firmly believe and know that here are His most 
holy Body and Blood, living and true. This is the way in which 
the Lord is always present with His faithful ones, as He Himself 
promises: I am with you all through the days that are coming, until 
the consummation of the world. 



On the evil of self-will. 

THE Lord said to Adam: Thou mayest eat thy fill of all the trees in 
the garden except the tree which Tmngs knowledge of good and evil; 

169 



if ever thou eatest of this, thy doom is death. So Adam was permitted 
to eat of every tree in die garden, and so long as he did not 
disobey, he did not sin. For a man eats of the tree of the know- 
ledge of good when he directs his will to his own ends, and 

boasts about the good that God works through him. By this 
means, through the instigation of the devil and his own dis- 
obedience to the command of God, the good fruit is transformed 

into the fruit of the knowledge of evil, and for this he has to 
suffer the penalty. 



On perfect and imperfect obedience. 

OUR Lord says in the Gospel: None of you can be My disciple if he 
does not take leave of that he possesses, and, The man who tries to 
save his life shall lose it. The man who renounces all his posses- 
sions and loses himself body and soul is the man who surrenders 
himself to obedience in the hands of his superior. Therefore, 
provided that it is good and is not contrary to the will of his 
superior, all that he does or says is true obedience. And if, while 
thus under obedience, he should see things that seem better and 
more profitable to his soul than those commanded by his 
superior, let him surrender his will to God in sacrifice and take 
care to carry out the orders of his superior. For this is true and 
loving obedience, acceptable to God and one's neighbour. 

Should a superior give an order which is against the conscience 
of a subject, he is not obliged to obey, but he may not leave him; 
and if his refusal brings persecution on him, he must love his 
persecutors all the more for God's sake. For one who would 
suffer persecution rather than separate himself from his brethren 
is living in true and perfect obedience, because he is laying down 
his life for his friends. But there are many Religious who, claiming 
to see a better course of action than that ordered by their super- 
iors, look back and return to the vomit of their own self-will. Such 

170 



men are guilty of manslaughter, because their evil example 
causes the loss of many souls. 



That no man may take upon himself the office of superior. 

I have not come to have service done Me, hit to serve others, says the 
Lord. Those who are appointed to rule over others may not 
boast of their position any more than if they were to be assigned 

to the duty of washing their brethren's feet. And if they are 
more disturbed about the possibility of losing their position than 
they would be about losing the duty of foot-washing, they will 

expose their souls to great danger. 



That no man may boast save in the Cross of out Lord. 

CONSIDER, O man, to what sublime a dignity the Lord has 
raised you, for He has created and formed you in the image of 
His beloved Son in your bodily nature, and in the likeness of 
Him in the spirit. All creatures under heaven serve, acknowledge, 
and obey their Creator better than you. Even the devils did not 
crucify Him, but you yourself have crucified Him and still do 
so by your delight in wickedness and sin. So what have you got 
to boast about? Were you so wise and clever that you possessed 
all knowledge, understood all languages, and pierced the mys- 
teries of the heavens by your cunning, you could not boast about 
these things, for a single devil knows more about heaven and 
earth than all men put together, although there have been some 
men to whom God granted a special knowledge of sublime 
wisdom. And if you were the most handsome and wealthy of 
men, or if you could work wonders, or cast out devils, none of 
these things would avail you; you cannot claim credit for them 



171 



or boast about them. But we may boast of our humiliations, and 
delight to bear the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ day by day. 

6 
On the following of Christ. 

MY brothers, let us think of the Good Shepherd, Who endured 
the Passion and Cross in order to save His sheep. Our Lord's 
sheep have followed Him in trouble, persecution and disgrace, 
in hunger and thirst, in temptation and other hardships, and by 
so doing have received from their Lord everlasting life. It 
therefore brings great disgrace on us servants of God that the 
Saints have done great things while we hope to win honour 
and fame merely by talking and preaching about them. 



That knowledge should be followed by holy deeds. 

THE Aposde Paul says. The written law inflicts death, whereas the 
spiritual law brings life. Those killed by the letter are those who 
only want to know the words of Christ in order to appear wiser 
and more learned than others, and to amass a great fortune to 
bestow on their families and friends. Even Keligious are killed 
by the letter if they are not prepared to follow the spirit of the 
word of God, but are content merely to know it and explain it 
to others. But those who receive life from the spirit of the word 
of God are those who do not take every word that they study in 
its literal sense, but by their own word and example ascribe it to 
God most High, the Source of all good. 

8 
On avoiding the sin of envy. 

THE Apostle Paul says, Nb one can say 'Jesus is Lord 9 except through 
the Holy Spirit, and, An innocent man is nowhere to be found. So 

172 



whoever envies Ms brother because of the good that the Lord 
says or does through him is near to committing the sin of 
blasphemy, for his envy is against God most High Himself, 
Who is the Source and Author of all good. 



9 



On love. 

OUR Lord says in the Gospel, Love your enemies. One who truly 

loves his enemy does not bear malice for any injury that he has 
received from him. Because he loves God he grieves for the 
sin on the other's soul, and shows Ms love by Ms actions. 



10 

On 'bodily mortification. 

THESE are many people who always blame an enemy or a 
neighbour whenever they themselves do wrong or suffer some 
hurt. TMs is not just, for everyone has his enemy in his own 
power, that is, his own body, by which he sins. Blessed is the 
servant who keeps such an enemy constantly under his control, 
and wisely guards himself against him. For so long as he does 
this, no other enemy, visible or invisible, can harm him. 

11 

How no one is corrupted by another's evil. 

NOTHING should be more displeasing to a servant of God than 

sin. If another person sins in some way, and the servant of God 
is distressed and angry about it, except through charity, he is 
storing up retribution for himself. But the servant of God who is 
not angry or distressed by anything whatsoever is living rightly 

173 



and without sin. And blessed is die man who retains nothing for 
himself, but gives lack to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what 
is God's. 

12 

On recognizing the spirit of God. 

A SERVANT of God may recognize whether he has the spirit of 
God in this way: if, when God performs any good through him 
his natural feelings are not puffed up for the flesh is always the 
enemy of all good and if he always remembers his own un- 
worthiness, and regards himself as the least of all men. 

13 

On patience. 

A SERVANT of God cannot know the extent of his patience and 
humility so long as all goes well with him. But when a time 
comes that those who should treat him well do the opposite, 
then he shows the true extent of his patience and humility, and 

no more. 

14 

On poverty of spirit. 

Blessed are the poor in spirit; the kingdom of heaven is theirs. There 
are many who are regular in saying their prayers and Offices, 
and who discipline their bodies by fasts and austerities. But if a 
single word is uttered that offends them, or if they are deprived 
of anything, they are immediately provoked and offended. 
People of this sort are not poor in spirit, for one who is truly poor 
in spirit despises himself and shows charity towards those who 
strike Mm in the face. 

174 



15 

On those who love peace. 

Blessed are the peacemakers ; they shall be counted the children of God. 
True lovers of peace are those who, in all their sufferings upon 
earth, remain at peace in mind and body for the love of Jesus 
Christ. 



16 

On pureness of heart. 

Blessed are the clean in heart; they shall see God. The clean in heart 

are those who despise earthly things and aspire to heavenly. They 
never cease to adore and see the Lord God, the living and the 
true, with a clean heart and soul. 



17 

On the humble servant of God. 

BLESSED is the servant who does not take greater pleasure in the 
good which God says or does through him than that which He 
does through others. When anyone wants to receive more 
from his neighbour than he himself is prepared to give to the 
Lord his God, he is guilty of sin. 



18 

On compassion towards our neighbour. 

BLESSED is the man who helps his neighbour in trouble, just as 
he would wish to be helped in like circumstances, 

175 



19 



On the blessed and the unworthy servant. 

BLESSED is die servant who regards all that he has as belonging 
to God; for whosoever retains anything for his own use hides 
his Master's money; and will lose even what he thinks his own. 



20 

On the good and humble Religious. 

BLESSED is the servant who does not esteem himself as better 
when he is praised and promoted by men than when they look 
on him as vile, stupid, and contemptible; for whatever a man 
is in the sight of God, that he is, and no more. Woe to the 
Religious who is raised to high office by his fellows, but refuses 
to relinquish it. And blessed is the servant who is promoted by 
no desire of his own, and always desires to remain at the feet of 
others. 

21 

On the blessed and the foolish Religious. 

BLESSED is the Religious whose sole joy and delight is in the 
most holy words and works of God, and thus leads men to the 
love of God with joy and gladness. And woe to the Religious 
who loves idle and foolish chatter, and thus leads men to 

laughter. 

22 

On the foolish and talkative Religious 

BLESSED is the servant whb does not speak in the hope of gain, 

does not discuss all his affairs, and is not eager to talk, but wisely 

176 



weighs his words and replies. Woe to the Religious who does 

not hide the favours that God has shown him within his heart, 
and who does not show proof of them in his behaviour, but 
wants to tell everyone about them in hope of some gain. In so 
doing he has already had his reward^ and those who listen to him 
reap little benefit. 

23 

On true discipline. 

BLESSED is the servant who accepts instruction, accusation, and 
reproof from another as patiently as he would from himself. 
Blessed is the servant who accepts rebuke with courtesy, obeys 
respectfully, confesses humbly, and makes amends gladly. 
Blessed is the servant who is not in a hurry to excuse himself, 
but humbly accepts shame and reproach for a fault even when 
he is not to blame. 

24 

On true humility. 

BLESSED is the man who is as humble among his subjects as 
among his superiors. Blessed is the servant who is always 
amenable to the rod of correction. The faithful and wise servant 
is one who does immediate penance for his misdeeds, both 
inwardly by contrition and outwardly by confession and active 
reparation. 

25 

On true love. 

BLESSED is the man who loves his brother as much when he is 
ill and unable to help Mm as when he is well and able to do so. 

177 



Blessed is the man who loves and respects his brother when he 
is absent as when he is present, and never says anything behind 

his back that he could not in charity say to his face. 



26 

How servants of God should respect the clergy. 

BLESSED is the servant who is loyal to the clergy who live good 
lives and observe the laws of the holy Roman Church. And 
woe to those who despise them, for even when clergy are 
sinners, no man should judge them, since God reserves their 
judgement to Himself. For since their office is concerned with 
the most holy Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, which 
they receive and they alone may administer to others, it is higher 
than all others, so that any offence against them is more serious 
than those committed against other men in this world. 



27 



On the virtues which banish vices. 

WHERE there is charity and wisdom, there is neither fear nor 
ignorance. 

Where there is patience and humility, there is neither anger nor 
vexation. 

Where there is poverty with joy, there is neither greed nor 
avarice. 

Where there is peace and meditation, there is neither anxiety 
nor doubt. 

Where the fear of the Lord stands guard, there the enemy finds 
no entry. 

Where there is mercy and moderation, there is neither indul- 
gence nor harshness. 

178 



28 

On concealing God's favours, lest they be lost. 

BLESSED is the servant who lays up the favours that God has 
shown him as treasure in heaven, and has no wish to disclose them 
to others in the hope of some advantage; for the Most High 
will reveal His workings to whomsoever He pleases. Blessed is 
the servant who keeps the secrets of the Lord locked away in 
his heart. 



179 



LETTERS 
LETTER 1 
A LETTER ADDRESSED TO ALL THE FAITHFUL 

As its contents indicate, this letter was written during the Saint's 
tatter years, when, much to his grief, his tveakness made it impossible 
for him to travel the roads as an evangelist. This long letter was 
clearly intended to be circulated among the friars and read by them 
to their listeners as a personal Encyclical It deals with reverence for 
the Sacrament of the Altar, confession, self-discipline, and many other 
practical matters. 

TO all Christians, Religious, clergy and layfolk, men and women, to 
all people throughout the world. Brother Francis, their servant and 
subject, presents his services and respects, and wishes them the true 
peace from heaven and sincere charity in our Lord. 

BEING the servant of all, it is my duty to serve everyone, and to 
proclaim the gracious words of my Lord. So, knowing that my 
bodily disease and weakness prevents my visiting you all in 
person, I have decided to use this letter as my messenger in order 
to bring to your minds the teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ, 
the Word of the Father, and the words of the Spirit, which are 
spirit and life. 

God most high announced from heaven the coming of this 
noble, holy, and glorious Word of the Father through His holy 
Archangel to the holy and glorious Virgin Mary, in whose 
womb He received the true flesh of our human nature and its 
frailty. He Who was so rich willed to choose poverty with His 
most blessed Mother. On the eve of His Passion He celebrated 

180 



the Passover with His disciples, and taking bread, He gave thanks, 
and Messed and broke it, saying, 'Take, eat; this is My Body! And 
taking the cup, He said, 'This is My Blood of the New Testament, 
which is to be shed for you and for many to the remission of sins / 
Then He prayed His Father, saying, 'Father, if it is possible let this 
chalice pass Me by. 9 And His sweat fell to the ground like thick drops 
of blood. But He resigned His own will to the will of the Father, 
saying, 'Father, Thy will be done; not as I will, but as Thou wilt! 
It was the will of the Father that His blessed and glorious Son, 
Whom He gave to be born for us, should offer Himself through 
His own Blood as a Sacrifice and Victim upon the altar of the 
Cross. He was not to offer this Sacrifice for Himself, by Whom 
all things came into being, but for our sins, leaving us His own 
example, that we should follow in His footsteps. It is His will that 
we should be saved through Him, and that we should receive 
Him with a pure heart and chaste body. But few have any 
desire to receive Him and be saved through Him, although His 
yoke is easy and His burden is light. 

(THE JOY OF SERVING GOD) 

Those who have no desire to taste and prove how gracious the 
Lord is, who prefer darkness to light, and refuse to obey the 
commandments of God, are accursed. It is of such that the 
prophet says, Thy curse lies on all who swerve from Thy covenant. 
But how happy and blessed are those who love the Lord and 
do His will, as our Lord Himself says in the Gospel, Thou shalt 
love the Lord thy God with thy whole soul, and thy neighbour as 
thyself. Let us therefore love God and worship Him with a pure 
heart and a pure mind, for this is what He seeks above all else, 
saying, true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth. 
For all who worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in 
truth. Let us offer Him our praises and prayers day and night, 
saying, Our Father, Who art in heaven, for we ought to pray 
continually and never be discouraged. 

181 



(CONFESSION AND AMENDMENT) 

We must confess all our sins to a priest, and receive from him 
the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. One who does 
not eat His Flesh and drink His Blood cannot enter the kingdom 
of God. But let a man eat and drink worthily, for if he who eats 
and drinks unworthily he is eating and drinking damnation to him- 
self, not recognizing the Lord's Body; in other words, he makes 
no distinction between this and other food. Furthermore, we 
have to yield the acceptable fruit of repentance. And let us love our 
neighbours as ourselves; and if anyone is unwilling or unable to 
do this, let him at least refrain from doing them ill, but try to 
do them good. 

(THE RIGHT USE OF AUTHORITY) 

Those who have been given authority over others must 
exercise it with mercy, as they themselves hope for mercy from 
God. And let the man who shows no mercy be judged without 
mercy. We must be charitable, humble, and generous, for these 
things purify the soul from the stains of sin. For men leave 
behind all their possessions in this world, but they take with 
them the merits of their charity and almsgiving; for these the 
Lord will reward them generously. 

(ON FASTING AND SPIRITUAL EXERCISES) 

It is our duty to fast, to shun vices and sins, and to avoid 
over-indulgence in food and drink. We must also be loyal 
Catholics. We should pay frequent visits to churches, and 
respect the clergy not so much for themselves, if they are 
sinners but for their office and ministry of the most holy Body 
and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, which they plead in sacrifice 
upon the altar, and daily receive and administer to others. Let 
us all be clear in our minds that no one can be saved except 
through the Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by His holy 

182 



words (of consecration) which the priests alone may utter, for 
they alone may administer the Sacrament to others. Religious, 
who have renounced the world, are under a special obligation 
to do more and greater things for God, and not to forget the other 
duties. 

(SELF-DISCIPLINE AND LOVE OF ENEMIES) 

We must despise the body with its vices and sins, for our Lord 
says in the Gospel that all vices and sins proceed from the heart; 
and that we must love our enemies, and do good to those who hate 
us. We must obey the commands and teachings of our Lord 
Jesus Christ, and practice self-denial, subduing our bodies to 
accept the yoke of service and of holy obedience, as each of us 
has vowed to our Lord. 

(THE SUPERIOR TO BE SERVANT OF ALL) 

No one is obliged to obey an order which involves him in 
sin or wrong-doing. Let any man who is given authority and 
set over others regard himself as the least, and be the servant of 
all his brethren. He must show each of them the same kindness 
that he would wish to receive from them were he in their place. 
He must not lose his temper with an offending brother, but warn 
and encourage him kindly, with all patience and humility. 

(AGAINST WORLDLY WISDOM) 

We are not to be wise by the standards of this world, but 
simple, humble, and pure. We have to hold our bodies in 
contempt and subjection, for it is our own fault that we are all 
wretched and corrupted, v He worms as the Lord says through the 
prophet; I am a poor worm and have no manhood left; I am a 
by-word to all, the laughing-stock of the rabble. We should never 
want to dominate other people; rather should we be servants, 
subject to every human authority for love of the Lord. May the Spirit 

183 



of the Lord rest upon all who do these things and persevere in 
them to the end. May He make His dwelling in them, so that 
they become true sons of their Father in heaven, Whose will they 
serve. They are spouses, brothers, and mothers of our Lord 
Jesus Christ. We are spouses of Christ when our soul is filled 
with faith and united to Jesus Christ by the Holy Spirit. We are 
His brothers when we do the will of His Father, Who is in heaven. 
We are His mothers when we conceive Him in our heart and 
body by pure love and a clean conscience, and when we bring 
Him forth by our holy actions, which are to give light and 
example to others. 

(THE DIGNITY OF THE CHRISTIAN) 

O how glorious, holy, and splendid a Father we have in 
heaven! O how sacred, wonderful, and lovable a Spouse we 
have in heaven! O how holy, beloved, kindly and humble, 
peaceable, sweet, loving, and supremely deskable a Brother we 
have in heaven I For He has laid down His life for His sheep, and 
has prayed the Father for us, saying, Holy Father, keep them true 
to Thy Name, Thy gift to Me. Father, they belong to Thee; as all I 
have is Thine, and all Thou hast is Mine; and Thou gavest them to 
Me. J have given them Thy message. Now they have learned to 
recognize all the gifts Thou gavest Me as coming from Thee, and 
recognize it for truth that I came from Thee. It is for these I pray; 
I am not praying for the world; bless them and keep them holy. And 
I dedicate Myself for their sakes, that they too may be dedicated, and 
may be one as We are One. This, Father, is My desire that all those 
whom Thou hast entrusted to Me may be with Me where I am 9 so 
as to see My glory in Thy kingdom. 

(THE PRAISE OF GOD) 

And because He has suffered so much for us, and conferred so 
many blessings upon us, and will do so in time to come, let 

184 



ev ery creature in heaven, and on earth, and in the sea and all depths 
give praise, glory, honour, and Uessing to God. For He is our 
strength and our might, He alone is good, He alone is Most 
High, Almighty and wonderful, glorious and all-holy, to be 
praised and blessed to endless ages of ages. Amen. 

(A WARNING TO THE WORLDLY) 

But woe to the impenitent and to those who do not receive 
the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, but indulge in 
wickedness and vice, pursuing evil passions and unholy desires. 
Woe to those who do not keep their promises, who surrender 
their bodies as slaves of the world, of carnal desires, and of the 
cares and pleasures of this world. Woe to those who at heart 
serve the devil and are deceived by him whose sons they are 
and whose will they do, for these are blind and cannot see the 
true light, our Lord Jesus Christ. They are destitute of spiritual 
wisdom, because the Son of God, the true Wisdom of the 
Father, does not dwell in them. It is said of them, Their own 
wisdom is forgotten. They see, know and do evil, and deliberately 
throw away their souls. Blind creatures that you are, led astray 
by your enemies the world, the flesh, and the devil ! See how 
pleasant the body finds sin, and how distasteful the service of 
God ! For, as the Gospel says, It is from the heart of man that his 
wicked designs come. Never will you possess any good, in this 
world or the next. You imagine that you have plenty of time 
in which to enjoy the vanities of this world, but you are mistaken, 
for the day and hour is approaching of which you refuse to 
think and prefer to remain in ignorance. 

(THE TRAGEDY OB AN IMPENITENT DEATH) 

The body falls sick, and death draws near; meanwhile relatives 
and friends gather, saying, 'Make your will/ The sick man's 
wife and children, relatives and friends, pretend to be sorry, and 

185 



as lie looks at them tie is moved to ill-inspired emotion, thinking 
to himself, 'Now I place my soul, body, and all my possessions 
in your hands/ But lost indeed is the man who entrusts his soul 
and body into such hands, for the Lord says by His prophet, 
Cursed shall he le that puts his trust in man. Then they send for 
a priest, who says, 'Are you ready to do penance for all your 
sins?' He replies, *I am.* *Are you willing to make restitution 
from your property for the frauds and deceits that you have 
practised on others, so far as this is possible?* *No/ he answers. 
"Why not?' asks the priest. 'Because I have already disposed of 
aU rny property in favour of my relations and friends/ Then the 
wretched man begins to lose his power of speech, and is over- 
taken by a bitter death. Let all realize that whenever or however 
a person dies in his sins and without any attempt to make 
amends when he was able to do so, the devil tears his soul from 
his body with such agony and sorrow as is unexpressible save 
by one who has experienced it. All the talents, influence, know- 
ledge, and wisdom that he thought were his are stripped from 
him. His relatives and friends seize upon his property and 
divide it, saying afterwards, 'Curse his soul ! Why could he not 
have been more wealthy, and left us more!* Meanwhile the 
worms are feasting on his flesh. Thus during this brief life a 
man can lose both soul and body, and pass into hell, where he 
will suffer eternal torment. 

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy 
Spirit. Amen. I, Brother Francis, desiring to kiss your feet, beg and 
implore you to welcome the fragrant words of our Lord Jesus 
Christ humbly and lovingly, to execute them gladly, and to 
obey them perfectly. Those who cannot read should have these 
words read to them frequently, and bear them in mind by 
putting them into practice until their lives' end, for they are 
spirit and life. Those who fail to do so will give an account at 
the Last Day before the judgement-seat of Christ. And may 
the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit bless all who gladly 
welcome the words of Christ, understand them, teaching others 

186 



to follow them by their own example, and persevering in them 
to the end. Amen. 



LETTER 2 

A LETTER SENT TOWARDS THE END OF HIS LIFE 
TO THE CHAPTER GENERAL AND ALL THE FRIARS 

This letter to the Chapter General was sent shortly before Saint 
Francis's death. Its tone and contents betray his anxiety about the 
tendency to relax the high ideals of the primitive Rule and about the 
worldliness of certain priests in the Order. He renews his promise to 
keep the Rule in all its vigour, and states bluntly that those who are 
not willing to be loyal to the ideals of the Order 'are not Catholics or 
friars of mine' He deals at length with the dignity and obligations of 
the priestly office, and begs the Minister General and his successors to 
maintain the discipline and ideals of the Order without equivocation. 

IN the Name of the sublime Trinity and of the sacred Unity ; the 
Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen. 

To all his revered and much loved brothers, to his superior the 
Minister General of the Order of Minors and the Ministers 
General who shall succeed him, to all Ministers, Guardians, and 
humble priests of his Fraternity in Christ, and to all simple and 
obedient friars, both long professed and newly admitted: I, 
Brother Francis, a wretched and fallen man, your little servant, 
send you greeting in the Name of Christ, Who has redeemed 
and cleansed us in His Precious Blood. When you hear His 
Name adore Him with fear and reverence, and cast yourselves 
to the ground, for the Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Most High, 
is the Name of Him Who is blessed for evermore. Amen. 

Hear my words, sons of the Lord and my brothers. Open the 
ears of your heart, and obey the voice of the Son of God. Keep 
His commandments with all your heart, and observe His 

187 



counsels with, a perfect mind. Give thanks unto the Lord for His 
goodness, and glorify Him by your deeds, for He has sent you 
out into the whole world to testify to Him in word and deed, 
and to proclaim to all men that none is omnipotent but He. 
Persevere in discipline and in holy obedience. Keep your vows 
made to Him fully and faithfully. The Lord God offers Himself 
to you as to His children. 

My brothers, I kiss your feet, and beg you with all my affection 
to show all possible reverence and honour to the most holy Body 
and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, through Whom all things in 
heaven and on earth have been won lack into union and peace with 
Almighty God. 

In the Name of the Lord I also beg all my friars who are, shall 
be, or hope to become priests of the Most High, to purify their 
hearts whenever they purpose to celebrate Mass, so as to offer 
the true sacrifice of the most holy Body and Blood of our Lord 
Jesus Christ reverently and with a pure and holy intention, not 
for any worldly motive, or out of fear or love for anyone, in 
order to please men. But with the help of God's grace let them 
direct their whole intention to the supreme Lord alone, desiring 
only to please Him Who acts in this Sacrament as He wills; for 
He says, Do this for a commemoration of Me. If any man does 
otherwise he becomes a traitor like Judas, and will be held to 
account for the Lord's Body and Blood. 

Remember, my brothers who are priests, what is written in 
the Law of Moses, for those who transgressed it even in outward 
observance died without mercy in accordance with God's decree. 
And what of the man who has trampled the Son of God under- 
foot, who has reckoned the blood of die covenant, the very blood 
which sanctified him, as a thing unclean, and mocked at the Spirit 
that brought him grace? For, as the Apostle says, when a roan 
does not distinguish or discern between the Holy Bread of 
Christ and other food, or when he eats unworthity 9 or when, 
although in a state of grace, he receives It carelessly and in vain, 
he despises, desecrates, and tramples on the Lamb of God. For 

188 



God says through His prophet, Cursed is the man that doeth the 
work of God deceitfully. And He denounces priests who refuse to 
lay this to heart, saying, Falls my curse on all your blessings. 

Listen, my brothers. If the Blessed Virgin Mary is rightly 
honoured because she bore Christ in her most holy womb; if 
blessed John the Baptist trembled and was afraid to rest his 
hand on the head of die Holy One of God; if the tomb in which 
He rested awhile is held in veneration; how much more holy, 
righteous, and worthy should be the man who takes in his hands, 
receives into his mouth and heart, and administers to others the 
Lord Christ, no longer mortal but glorified, eternal and vic- 
torious, on Whom the angels desire to satisfy their gaze. 

Consider your dignity, my brothers who are priests, and be 
holy, because He is holy. And since the Lord God has honoured 
you above all men through this holy Mystery, it is for you to 
love, reverence, and honour Him more than all men. It is a sad 
mistake and grave fault to be thinking of anything worldly 
when you have Him so close to you. Let mankind tremble, 
let the whole world shake, and the heavens rejoice when Jesus 
Christ, Son of the living God, descends to the altar in the hands 
of His priest ! Oh, how wonderful is His dignity, and how 
amazing His condescension! Oh, humble sublimity! Oh, 
sublime humility, when the Lord of the universe, God and the 
Son of God, so humbles Himself as to conceal Himself beneath 
the simple form of bread for our salvation ! Acknowledge the 
humility of God, my brothers, and lay the homage of your hearts 
at His feet; humble yourselves, so that He may exalt you. 
Withhold no part of yourselves from Him, so that He Who has 
given Himself so completely to you may Himself take full 
possession of you. 

I counsel you in the Lord's Name that wherever the friars 
have houses only one Mass is to be said each day, and this is to 
be celebrated according to the use of Holy Church. If there are 
several priests in the house, let one be content to assist at the 

189 



Mass of another priest with love and charity, for our Lord 
grants equal grace to all who are worthy, both present and 
absent. For although our Lord may be found in many places, 
He remains entire and undirninished, and is One and the same 
everywhere, working as He pleases with the Lord God the 
Father, and the Holy Spirit the Paraclete throughout all ages. 
Amen. 

And because the man who belongs to God listens to God's words, 
we have an especial obligation as regards the Divine Office, and 
must not only hear and obey the word of God, but reverently 
preserve both the (sacred) vessels and all books that contain His 
holy words, for in so doing we shall come to realize the sublime 
dignity of our Creator and the service that we owe Him. In His 
Name, therefore, I urge all my friars to treat the written words 
of God with all possible reverence wherever they may find 
them; and should it seem to them that they are not properly 
looked after or left lying about neglected, they are to collect 
them and put them in a fitting place, for in so doing they will 
honour the Lord Who spoke them. For many things are 
hallowed by the word of God, and it is by the merit of Christ's 
words that the Sacrament of the Altar is consecrated. 

For myself, I confess all my sins before God the Father, the 
Son, and the Holy Spirit, to blessed Mary ever-virgin, to all the 
Saints in heaven and on earth, to the Minister-General of our 
Order as my revered superior, to all the priests of our Order, 
and to all my other blessed friars. I have offended in many 
matters by my own grievous fault, in particular because I have 
failed to observe the Rule which I have vowed to our Lord, aad 
because of carelessness, sickness, ignorance or stupidity I have 
failed to recite the Office as the Rule requires. 

I request my superior the Minister-General to ensure that all 
friars observe the Rule without violation, and that the clergy 
recite the Office before God devoutly. Their concern is not to 
produce vocal harmonies, but harmony of soul, so that the 

190 



voice is at one with the soul, and the soul with God. In this way 
they will please God by their purity of soul, and will not be 
striving to please the ears of the people by the quality of their 
chanting. 

God granting me grace, I strictly promise to observe these 
things myself, and shall trust the friars with me to fulfil their 
obligations regarding the Divine Office and other duties pre- 
scribed by the Rule. But if any of the brethren are unwilling to 
observe them, I do not regard them as Catholics or as friars of 
mine, and do not wish to see them or speak to them until they 
have done penance. I say the same of all others who wander 
about as they please and reject the discipline of the Rule, for 
our Lord Jesus Christ gave His life in order that He might not 
be lacking in obedience to His most holy Father. I, Brother 
Francis, the useless and unworthy creature of the Lord God, 
request Brother Elias, Minister-General of our whole Order, 
together with all Ministers-General who shall succeed him, and 
all Custodians and Guardians of the friars, both present and to 
come, to keep this letter of mine with them, to bear it in mind, 
and to follow its counsels. I beg them to take pains to observe 
all that is written in it, and cause it to be diligently followed in 
accordance with the pleasure of Almighty God now and always, 
so long as this world shall remain. 

May God bless you who do these things, and may the Lord 
abide with you for ever. 

ALMIGHTY, eternal, just, and merciful God, grant us miserable 
sinners grace that we may always do what we know to be Thy 
will, and always will as Thou wiliest; that inwardly cleansed, 
illumined, and kindled by the fire of the Holy Spirit, we may be 
enabled to follow in the footsteps of Thy Son our Lord Jesus 
Christ, and through Thy grace alone come to possess Thee, O 
Most High, Who livest and reignest in glory, perfect Trinity 
and undivided Unity, God Almighty, throughout all ages. 
Amen. 

191 



LETTER 3 
TO A MINISTER 

The un-named Minister to whom this letter is addressed is commonly 
thought to be Brother Elias, who became Minister in 1221. The letter 
appeals for love, tolerance, and restraint towards those who oppose him. 

To our Brother Minister: the Lord bless you. 

I give you my advice on the health of your soul and on the 
things that hinder your love of the Lord God to the best of my 
ability. If any friars or other people distress you or even strike 
you, regard these things as a means of grace. So be content with 
matters as they are, and do not seek to have them otherwise. 
You can attain this state of mind by true obedience to the Lord 
God and to me, for I am quite sure that this is the truest form of 
obedience. Love those who do you wrong, and hope for 
nothing from them but what the Lord shall grant you. Show 
your love for them by praying that they may become better 
Christians. This will bring greater benefit to your soul than 
living in a hermitage. On this point I would have you know 
that if you love the Lord and me His servant, you will show it 
in these ways: if some brother who has sinned, however gravely, 
come to you and asks pardon, never allow him to go away with- 
out receiving it. Even if he does not ask pardon, inquire whether 
he would not like to receive it. And if subsequently he comes to 
you a thousand rimes, love him more than you love me, and 
always show compassion on him so as to draw him to our Lord. 
And when you can do so, tell the Guardians that you are fully 
determined to act in this way. 

With regard to all the articles in the Rule dealing with mortal 
sins, at the Whitsun Chapter with God's help and the advice of 
the brethren we will draw up a single article on these lines: If at 
the instigation of the devil any friar shall commit mortal sin, 
he shall be bound under obedience to appear before his Guardian. 

192 



The friars who know of bis offence are not to abuse or disgrace 
him, but show great compassion to him and keep the sin of their 
brother concealed; for it is not those who are in health that have 
need of the physician, it is those who are sick. It is their duty under 
obedience to send him with a companion to his Guardian, and 
the Guardian is to deal mercifully with him, as he would wish 
to be treated were he in the same position. 

If a friar commits any venial sin, he is to confess it to one 
of the brethren who is a priest; if no priest is available, let him 
confess to another friar until such time as he finds a priest to 
absolve him canonically, as already mentioned (Rule I, Cap. 20). 
Confessors have no authority to impose any other penance than 
this : Go, and sin no more. 

In order to digest these matters the better, keep this letter with 
you until Whitsun when you will be attending Chapter with 
your brethren. And with the help of God apply yourself to 
work out these and any other points in the Rule that are not 
sufficiently clear. 



LETTER 4 
TO RULERS OF THE PEOPLE 

Here the Saint appeals to those in high places not to allow their 
responsibilities to crowd out their religious obligations. Their position 
gives them opportunities to give a lead in devotion to their people, 
especially by their attendance at Mass. 

To all princes and rulers, judges and governors throughout the 
world, and to all whom this letter shall reach: Brother Francis, 
your unworthy little servant in the Lord God, wishes you 
salvation and peace. 

Bear in mind and realize that the day of our death is approach- 
ing. So I implore you most respectfully not to forget God or to 

193 



fall away from His commandments because of your cares and 
worldly responsibilities; for God's curse lies on all who swerve, 
from His covenant, and He will put them from His mind. 
When the hour of death comes they will lose everything that 
they thought their own; and the more learned and powerful 
they were in this world, the greater will be their suffering in hell. 
My Lords, I earnestly urge you to set aside all worry and 
anxiety, and lovingly receive the most holy Body and Blood 
of our Lord Jesus Christ in remembrance of Him. See to it that 
all the people in your charge pay great honour to God. Let a 
rime be set apart every evening and proclaimed by a herald or 
some other signal, when all the people offer praise and thanks 
to Almighty God. If you do not do this, remember that you 
will have to give an account before your Lord and God Jesus 
Christ at the Day of Judgement, May the Lord God bless all 
who keep a copy of this letter on their person and observe its 
counsels. 



LETTER 5 
TO ALL THE GUARDIANS OF THE FRIARS 

This letter, addressed to the Guardians or superiors of all houses of 
the Order, asks them to use their influence to foster reverence for the 
Blessed Sacrament, especially among the secular clergy. The Saint 
emphasizes the need for penance and for the grace of the Sacraments. 

To all Guardians of the Friars Minor who shall receive this 
letter, Brother Francis, your little servant in the Lord God, sends 
his greeting, wishing to call to your minds the new signs in 
heaven and earth which are mighty and noble in the sight of 
God but little understood by many Religious and other people. 
Whenever you think it desirable or necessary, I beg you not 
for my sake alone to urge the clergy with all humility to give 
all possible reverence to the most holy Body and Blood of our 

194 



Lord Jesus Christ, to His holy Name, and to His recorded words 
by which the consecration of His Body is effected. Remind 
them to treat as sacred all chalices, corporals, ornaments of the 
altar, and everything that concerns the Holy Sacrifice. And 
should they ever find the most holy Body of our Lord un- 
worthily housed, let them replace It and reserve It in a costly 
place with great honour as the laws of the Church require, and 
let them administer It to the people in a fitting manner. And 
whenever they discover the written words of our Lord lying 
about in neglected places they should gather them together and 
lay them in some suitable place. 

In all your preaching urge the people to do penance, and tell 
them how none can be saved unless they receive the Body and 
Blood of our Lord. And when the Host is consecrated at the 
altar by the priest and carried from it, let all the people kneel 
and give praise, glory, and honour to the living and true Lord 
God. 

It is my wish that all my brethren who are Guardians and 
receive this letter should keep this letter by them, and give copies 
to the other friars. And those who hold office as preachers or as 
Guardians of the friars are to have copies made, and to publish 
everything contained in this letter to the end. In so doing, let 
them know that they enjoy God's blessing and my own. And 
let these words of mine be binding on them under true and 
holy obedience. 

LETTER 6 

TO THE CLERGY 

ON REVERENCE FOR THE BODY OF CHRIST AND 
THE CLEANLINESS OF THE ALTAR 

Saint Francis's ardent devotion to the Blessed Sacrament here moves 
him to appeal to all priests to ensure that the holy mysteries are 

195 



celebrated fittingly even in the poorest churches, and the Sacrament 
reserved in 'precious places.' It will be remembered that he took a lead 
by sweeping out neglected churches, gathering up scattered books, and 
providing altar vessels and ivafersfor Mass. This letter was probably 
intended to be copied and circulated by the friars as they travelled 
around the Provinces. 

As clergy we must all be aware of the grave sin and ignorance 
of which some are guilty regarding the most holy Body and 
Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ and His most holy Name and 
words by which His Body is consecrated. We know that His 
Body cannot be present unless it is first hallowed by His own 
word. For in this world we neither possess nor see anything of 
the Most High Himself save His Body and Blood, His Name, 
and His words, by which we have been created and redeemed 
from death to life. 

Therefore all who minister at such supremely sacred Mysteries 
should take thought especially those who minister carelessly 
how unworthy are the chalices, corporals, and linen used when 
the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ is offered in 
sacrifice. Many clergy reserve It in unworthy places; It is borne 
on the roads without honour, received unworthily, and care- 
lessly administered. The written Name and words of God are 
sometimes trampled underfoot, for the natural man does not 
discern the things of God. Shall we not be moved to reverence 
in these matters, when our gracious Lord entrusts Himself to our 
hands, and when we handle Him and daily receive Him into our 
mouths? Do we not understand that it is we who should 
entrust ourselves into His hands ? 

We must make swift and definite amends in all these faults, 
and whenever the most holy Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus 
Christ has been treated without honour or unfittingly reserved, 
let it be removed and enshrined in a costly place. In the same 
way, if the written Names and words of God are found lying in 
neglected places, let them be collected together and laid in a 

196 



fitting place. "We are well aware that it is our duty to observe 
these matters in obedience to the teachings of our Lord and the 
precepts of our Holy Mother the Church. And whosoever fails 
to observe these things, let him know that he will have to give 
account at the Day of Judgement. And be it known that 
whoever proclaims what I have written and secures its better 
observance shall receive the blessing of God. 



LETTER 7 
TO BROTHER LEO 

Saint Francis writes to his beloved companion who is troubled by 
the tendency among new-comers in the Order to relax the Rule, and 
gives him permission to approach him directly for comfort and advice 
at any time. 

BROTHER Leo, your brother Francis wishes you salvation and 
peace. 

My son, I am writing to you as a mother, and in this letter I 
will remind you briefly of the advice that I gave you about all 
the matters that we discussed on our journey. If in due course 
you find it necessary to come and consult me, this is what I say: 
With the blessing of God and in obedience to me choose what- 
ever way seems best to you and most pleasing to our Lord God 
in which to follow in the footsteps and poverty of Christ. And 
if you have need to come to me for the good of your soul or in 
order to receive some other consolation, and you wish to do so, 
then come, Leo. 



197 



LETTER 8 

A FRAGMENT OF THE RULE WRITTEN BY SAINT 
FRANCIS FOR THE SISTERS OF SAINT CLARE 

SINCE God has inspired you to become daughters and servants of 
the most high and supreme King, our heavenly Father, and 
spouses of the Holy Spirit by electing to live in accordance with 
the perfection of the Gospel, I desire and promise on my part 
and that of my friars that I will always have a diligent care and 
especial concern for you as well as for them. 



THE LAST WISH OF SAINT FRANCIS, WRITTEN BY 
HIM TO SAINT CLARE 

I, LITTLE Brother Francis, desire to imitate the life and poverty 
of our most high Lord Jesus Christ and His most holy Mother, 
and to continue in it to the end. And I beg you, my ladies, and 
counsel you always to persevere in this most holy life and 
poverty. Take great care not to depart from it in any way 
because of any contrary teaching or advice from any source 
whatsoever. 



LETTER 9 

INSTRUCTIONS TO FRIARS LIVING IN A 
HERMITAGE 

Saint Francis himself had felt a strong attraction to the life of a 
hermit, devoted to prayer and contemplation, and although, on the 
advice of Sister Clare and Brother Sylvester, he chose the harder role 
of public evangelist, he had every sympathy with those who retired to 
observe the Rule in all its austerity among the fastnesses of the moun- 

198 



tains. In this tetter he advises those called to this way of life to live in 
very small 'families, 9 and lays down some broad principles to guide 
them. 

THOSE friars who wish to lead the Religious Life in a hermitage 
should not number more than three or four at most. Two of 
them should act as mothers and two as sons, or one at least. 
Let the mothers lead the life of Mary and the sons the life of 
Martha. 

Those who are leading the life of Mary should each have his 
own enclosure and cell, so that they do not have to live or sleep 
together. Compline should always be said at sunset, and the 
friars must be careful to observe silence, say their Hours, and 
rise at Matins. And let them seek first the kingdom of God and 
His justice. They should say Prime and Terce, and after Terce 
they may break silence to talk with their mothers. And when- 
ever they so desire they may go out and ask alms for the love of 
God like other humble poor folk. Later in the day they should 
say Sext, None, and Vespers at the appointed times. 

No one must be allowed to enter or eat in the enclosure where 
they live. The friars who act as mothers are to take care to 
remain in seclusion, and to keep their sons under obedience to 
avoid conversation with outsiders, so that no one can speak to 
them. The sons are not to talk to anyone but their own mothers, 
and to their Guardian whenever with God's blessing he sees fit 
to visit them. Let the sons exchange duties with the mothers 
from time to time by mutual consent. And let the friars be 
careful to observe these instructions carefully and diligently. 



199 



THE TESTAMENT OF SAINT FRANCIS 

This is one of the most important and moving of Saint Francis's 
writings, composed after he had resigned the office of Minister- 
General. He speaks as founder and adviser of an Order that had 
groivn beyond all his imagining and beyond his own control, and was 
swiftly diverging from his first ideals. His Testament is a last personal 
challenge and appeal to the brethren to return to these first ideals, 
especially of poverty, simplicity, and obedience. He speaks simply of 
his own conversion, his faith in the Church and Sacraments. He tells 
of the early days of the brotherhood, and his conviction that they ( must 
live according to the teachings of the Gospels.' He forbids the friars to 
accumulate property and privileges like the older monastic Orders, and 
exalts the virtue of obedience to authority within the Order. 'Finally, 
knowing that the main danger to his ideals springs from worldly- 
mindedness and ambition among the Ministers, he directs them to read 
this Testament at every Chapter, and forbids them under obedience 
to water down the plain meaning of his words by any private inter- 
pretations of their own. 

THE Lord granted me, Brother Francis, grace to begin to do 
penance, for while I was living in sin, it seemed a very bitter 
thing to look at lepers ; but the Lord Himself led me among 
them, and I had compassion on them. And when I left them, the 
thing that had seemed so horrible to me was transformed into 
happiness of body and soul for me. After this I delayed awhile, 
and then renounced the world. And the Lord gave me such 
faith in His Church that I prayed to Him in simplicity and said, 
*We adore Thee, O Lord Jesus Christ, here and in all Thy 
churches throughout the world, and we bless Thee, for by Thy 
holy Cross Thou hast redeemed the world/ 
After this the Lord gave me, and still gives me, such faith in 

200 



priests who live according to the precepts of the holy Roman 
Church in respect of their Orders, that even were they to 
persecute me, I would wish to resort to them. And had I the 
great wisdom of Solomon, and found very poor secular priests, 
I would not preach in their parishes without their consent. I 
wish to respect them and all others, and to love and honour them 
as my masters; and I will not see any sin in them, because I see 
the Son of God in them, and look on them as my masters. And 
I wish the most holy Sacrament to be honoured above all 
things, and venerated in places of honour. And wherever I find 
writings bearing God's most holy Name and "Word lying in 
unfitting places, I gather them together and put them in a worthy 
place. And we should honour and respect all theologians, and 
those who teach the most holy Word of God as those who 
minister spirit and life to us. 

After the Lord had given me brethren, no man showed me 
what to do ; but the Most High Himself revealed to me how I 
must live according to the teachings of the Holy Gospel. And I 
dictated a simple Rule in a few words, and the Lord Pope 
confirmed it for me. And those who came to embrace this way 
of life gave all that they possessed to the poor, and were content 
with a single habit, patched inside and out, and a cord and 
breeches. And we had no desire for anything more. 

Those of us who were in Orders recited the Office like other 
clergy, while the lay-brethren said the Our Father. And we were 
content to live in abandoned churches, and to be looked on as 
ignorant and inferior to all men. I myself work with my hands, 
and wish to do so; and it is my firm intention that all other 
friars should work in some honest occupation. Those who do 
not know a craft must learn, not in order to make a profit from 
their labour, but to set a good example and avoid idleness. And 
whenever we are not given our due wages for work, let us 
approach the Lord's table and seek alms from door to door. 

The Lord has revealed to me that we should use this greeting, 

201 



'The Lord give you peace/ Let all the brethren beware of 
accepting churches, houses, or anything provided for them 
unless they conform to Holy Poverty, to which we are vowed 
in our Rule, always lodging as strangers and exiles. 

I strictly forbid all friars under holy obedience, wherever they 
may be, to presume to solicit any letters (of privilege) from the 
Roman Curia, either in person or indirectly, whether it be for 
a church or other place, under the pretext that it is necessary 
for preaching or to avoid persecution. Wherever they are not 
welcome, let them go to another place and do penance with the 
blessing of God. 

For myself, I firmly purpose to obey the Minister-General of 
this Fraternity and any Guardian whom he is pleased to appoint 
over me. I am content to be entirely in his hands, so that I 
cannot go anywhere or do anything contrary to obedience and 
to has will. At the same time, I wish always to have a priest to 
minister to me as is enjoined in the Rule. 

Let all the other friars be obliged to obey their Guardians, and 
to fulfil their obligations under the Rule. And should it be 
found that anyone does not fulfil his obligations according to the 
Rule and wishes to deviate from it, or is not a good Catholic, 
then all his other brethren, wherever they may be, are required 
under obedience to bring him before the nearest Guardian. The 
Guardian is to keep him confined like a prisoner day and night, 
so that he cannot escape from custody until he hands him over 
personally to his own Minister. And the Minister is likewise 
required under obedience to keep him in charge of suitable 
brethren, who are to watch him day and night until they can 
bring him before the Lord Cardinal of Ostia, who is the master, 
Protector, and corrector of this Fraternity. 

The brethren are not to say, 'This is a new Rule,' for it is a 
reminder, a warning, and an encouragement. It is my Testament 
which I, little Brother Francis, make for you, my blessed 
brothers, with the intention that as Catholics we may better obey 
the Rule which we have promised our Lord to obey. 

202 



The Minister-General and all other Ministers and Guardians 
are bound under obedience not to add or subtract anything 
from these words of mine. They are to keep this Testament 
always with them, together with the Rule, and at every Chapter 
which they summon, when they read the Rule, let them read 
these words as well. 

I strictly enjoin all my brethren, both clergy and lay-brothers, 
under obedience not to add glosses to the Rule or to my words, 
saying, It shall be understood thus/ But as our Lord has granted 
me to speak simply and clearly, so shall you understand them 
simply and clearly, and observe them with holy deeds until the 
end. 

Whosoever observes these things shall be filled with the 
blessing of our most high Father in heaven, and on earth he 
shall be blessed by His beloved Son, by the Holy Spirit the 
Paraclete, by all the powers of heaven, and by all the Saints. 

And I, Brother Francis, your little servant, to the utmost of 
my power, confirm you inwardly and outwardly in this most 
holy blessing. Amen. 



203 



THE FIRST RULE OF THE FRIARS MINOR 

Saint Francis had the temperament of an artist and a poet, and had 
little taste for rules and regulations, wishing only to follow Christ 
simply and sincerely in the spirit of the Gospels. At first he probably 
did not envisage the swift growth of his little brotherhood into a great 
Order, but he was quick to read the signs of the times, and realized 
that if his friars were to fulfil a useful purpose, they must obtain the 
blessing and guidance of the Church on their life and work. Accordingly 
in 1210, when his brethren reached the apostolic number of twelve. 
Saint Francis wrote a simple Rule and set out for Rome to obtain the 
approval of the Pope. 

Innocent III himself was deeply aware of the need for a spiritual 
revolution within the Church, but had been sorely tried by well-meaning 
but misguided reformers whose activities had resulted in harmful 
heresies and schisms. Despite his natural caution he therefore gave 
Saint Francis a careful hearing, and when the latter put aside the 
Popes suggestion that he should join one of the established Orders and 
continued to plead for permission to observe the precepts of the Gospel 
in absolute poverty and simplicity, he yielded to his urgency and gave 
verbal approval to his Rule, but reserved a more formal decision on 
the matter until this new type of religious fraternity had proved itself. 

The rapid growth of the Order, its organization into Provinces, and 
the appointment of Cardinal Ugolino as Protector brought great 
changes, many of them distasteful to Saint Francis. On his return from 
the Holy Land in the summer of 1220 he found the Order rent with 
dissension between those who wished the Order to conform to traditional 
lines, with houses, property, and schools, and those who clung to his 
ideal of primitive simplicity and absolute poverty. Feeling that he no 
longer enjoyed the support of the majority, Saint Francis resigned his 
office as Minister-General to Peter Catanii, and retired to S. Mary 

204 



of the Angels to revise the Rule, of which Father Cuthbert says: 'It 
was not a treaty of peace; it was a challenge thrown down to those who 
would change the vocation of the Fraternity; and as such it was taken 
by the dissident Ministers.' In it he restates his prohibition against 
the ownership of property, and the ideal of absolute poverty and 
simplicity. 

It is uncertain whether the Chapter of the Order approved the Rule, 
but it did not receive papal sanction and therefore remained inoperative. 
It failed to satisfy either Saint Francis or the Ministers. 



IN THE NAME OF THE FATHER, AND OF THE SON, 

AND OF THE HOLY SPIRIT. 

AMEN. 

THIS is the Rule of life which blessed Francis petitioned the 
Holy Father Innocent to grant and approve. And the Holy 
Father granted and approved it for him and his friars, present 
and to come. 

Brother Francis and all who succeed him as Head of this 
Order promise obedience and respect to the Holy Father 
Innocent and his successors. And all other friars shall be bound 
to obey Brother Francis and his successors. 

1 

That the friars shall live in obedience and chastity 9 without worldly 
possessions. 

THE Rule and way of life of our brethren is this: to live under 
obedience, in chastity, and without possessions, and to follow 
the teaching and footsteps of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who said: 
'Ifthou hast a mind to be perfect, go home and sell all that belongs 
to thee; give it to the poor 9 and so the treasure thou hast shall be in 
heaven; then come back and follow Me.' 

205 



6 If any man has a mind to come My way, let him renounce self, and 
take up his cross, and follow Me. 3 

s If any man comes to Me, without hating his father and mother and 
wife and children and brethren and sisters, yes, and his own life too, 
he can be no disciple of Mine.' 

'Every man that has forsaken home, or brothers, or sisters, or father, 
or mother, or wife, or children, or lands for My Names sake, shall 
receive his reward a hundredfold, and obtain everlasting life. 9 



On the admission of friars, and their clothing. 

IF any man is inspired by God to adopt this way of life and 
comes to our brethren, he is to be kindly received. If he perse- 
veres in his wish to follow our way of life, the friars shall take 
care not to interfere with his worldly affairs, but shall bring him 
to their Minister as soon as possible. The Minister is to receive 
him with kindness, give him encouragement, and carefully 
explain to him our life. After this, if the postulant so desires 
and can do so without any spiritual obstacle, let him arrange to 
dispose of all his property and distribute it among the poor. But 
the fiiars and Ministers of the friars must carefully avoid any 
interference with his arrangements, and must neither receive any 
money or benefit from it through a third person. But if they 
are in need, the friars may accept bodily necessities like other 
poor people, provided they do not accept money. When the 
postulant has returned, the Minister is to give him the habit of 
probation for one year, and this is to consist of two habits 
without the hood, a cord, breeches, and a waist-length cloak. 
When the year's probation has been completed, the Minister 
may accept his vow of obedience. After this the new brother 
will not be allowed to join another Order or to excuse himself 
from obedience, in accordance with the decree of the Lord Pope. 
For the Gospel says, No one who looks behind him, when he has 

206 



once put his hand to the plough, is fitted for the Kingdom of God. 
But if a man comes to us who cannot dispose of his property 
because of family responsibilities, although he has the will to do 
so, let him relinquish control of it and this shall suffice. 

The other friars who have made vows of obedience shall have 
a single habit with a hood, and if necessary another without it, 
together with a cord and breeches. All friars are to be clothed 
in poor garments, and may patch them with sackcloth and other 
pieces with God's blessing, for our Lord says in the Gospel, You 
must look in kings palaces for men that go proudly dressed and live in 
luxury. Even if they are abused as hypocrites they are not to 
cease doing good. And they are not to aspire to costly robes in 
this world, so that they may receive the robes of the Kingdom 
of Heaven. 



On the Divine Office and on fasting. 

OUR Lord says, This kind of devil cannot be cast out except by 
prayer and fasting. And, When you fast, do not be gloomy like 
hypocrites. So all friars, both clergy and lay-brothers, are to 
recite the Divine Office, Praises, and prayers according to the 
appointed use. Clergy will say the office for the living and 
the dead as other clergy do. Every day they will recite the 
Miserere mei, Deus and the Paternoster in reparation for the 
omissions and negligence of the brethren, and they are to say 
the De profundis and the Paternoster for departed brethren. They 
may only possess such books as are essential to the performance 
of their office. Lay brothers who can read may have a psalter, 
but others who cannot read may not have books. The lay 
brothers shall say the Credo and twenty-four Paternosters and 
Glorias for Matins and five for Lauds; the Credo and seven 
Paternosters with the Gloria for Prime; seven of each for Terce, 
Sext, and None; twelve for Vespers; and the Credo with seven 

207 



Paternosters and Glorias for Compline. They are also to say seven 
Paternosters and the Requiem aeternam for the departed, and three 
Paternosters daily in reparation for the omissions and negligences 
of the brethren. 

Similarly, all friars are to fast from the feast of All Saints until 
the Nativity of our Lord, and from Epiphany the time when 
our Lord began His fast until Easter. This Rule imposes no 
other obligation to fast except on Fridays. And they are allowed 
to eat any food that is set before them, as the Gospel teaches. 



On the Ministers and their authority over other friars. 

IN the Lord's Name, let all friars who are appointed Ministers 
and servants of the others assemble the brethren in their own 
provinces and houses, and let them pay frequent visits to give 
them spiritual counsel and encouragement. Let all my other 
blessed brethren render them due obedience in all matters that 
concern the salvation of their souls and are not contrary to the 
Rule. Let them act towards one another as our Lord com- 
mands: Do to other men all that you would have them do to you, 
and, do nothing to others that you would not wish to be done 
to yourself. The Ministers and servants of the brethren are to 
remember our Lord's words, I did not come to have service done 
to Me, but to serve others. The souls of the friars have been 
entrusted to their care, and if a single one of them is lost through 
their ill doing or bad example, they will have to render account 
before our Lord Jesus Christ at the Day of Judgement. 



On the correction of faults in the friars. 

GUARD your own souls and those of the brethren, for it is a 
fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. Should a 

208 



Minister give any friar an order contrary to our Rule or against 
his conscience, the friar is not obliged to obey him, for obedience 
is not enjoined when it involves committing a fault or sin. All 
brethren under obedience to the Ministers and servants are 
therefore to give careful and close attention to the behaviour of 
the Ministers themselves. And if one of them is seen to be acting 
in a worldly manner and not spiritually in accordance with the 
precepts of our Rule, and if after three warnings he does not 
amend, he is to be deposed from his office as Minister and 
servant of the whole brotherhood at the next Whitsun Chapter, 
however great the opposition may be. If any of the friars any- 
where wants to live a worldly life and neglects the spiritual life, 
his brother friars are to warn and reprove him, trying to correct 
him diligently and humbly. But if after three warnings he 
refuses to mend his ways, his brethren are to report the matter 
to his own Minister and servant, or send him to him as soon as 
possible; and the Minister is to do with him whatever he thinks 
best in the eyes of God. 

All friars, both Ministers and others, are to avoid giving way 
to anxiety or anger at the wrongdoing or bad example of 
another, for through one man's sin the devil tries to corrupt 
many others. They are to help the offender as well as they may 
by spiritual means, for it is not those who are in health that have 
need of the physician, it is those who are sick. 

Friars are not to behave in a haughty and overbearing manner, 
especially among themselves, for our Lord says in the Gospel, 
Among the Gentiles those who bear rule lord it over them, and great 
men vaunt their power over them. But it shall not be so among the 
friars, for whoever would he a great man among you must be your 
minister and servant, and whoever is great among you must become 
the least of all 

No friar is to wrong or malign another; on the contrary, all 
are to serve and obey one another gladly in the spirit of charity. 
This is the true and holy obedience of our Lord Jesus Christ. 
Let all friars who fall away from God's commandments and 

209 



revolt from obedience realize that so long as they deliberately 
persist in such wickedness they fall under the rebuke of the 
prophet, who said, Thy curse lies on all tvho swerve from Thy 
covenant. But so long as they adhere to the commandments of 
the Lord, as they have vowed to do by the Holy Gospel and by 
their Rule, they can rest assured that they are living in true 
obedience and enjoy the blessing of God. 



On the friars 9 right of appeal to their Ministers; and that no brother 
is to be called Prior. 

WHEREVER they may be, friars who find it impossible to observe 
our Rule of life are to visit their Minister and explain the 
circumstances to him. The Minister is to search carefully for 
such a solution as he would desire were he in their position. 
And no brother is to be called Prior, but all alike are to be known 
as Friars Minor. And let them all wash one another's feet. 



On the forms of work and service suitable for the friars. 

No friars, wherever they serve or work as employees of other 
men, are to be chamberlains, cellarers or stewards in the house- 
holds of those whom they serve. They are not to accept any 
office that might cause scandal or do harm to their own souls. 
They are to occupy humble posts and be at the beck and call of 
all in the house. 

Friars who know a trade are to work at it and use their former 
knowledge, provided that it is not contrary to the salvation of 
their souls and that they can put it to good use. For the prophet 
says, Thyself shall eat what thy hands have toiled to win; blessed 
thou art; all good shall be thine. And the Apostle Paul says, Each 

210 



of you is to remain, brethren, in the condition in which he was called. 
And, The man who refuses to work must be left to starve. The friars 
may accept all necessities of life, but no money. And should it 
be necessary, let them go and beg alms like other brethren. 
And they may possess tools and gear necessary for their work. 

Every friar is to keep occupied in useful work, for it is written, 
'Always be occupied in some good work, so that the devil may 
not find you idle.' And again, Idleness is the enemy of the soul.' 
So the servants of God should always be employed, either in 
prayer or in some other worthy occupation. 

Wherever friars may be, whether in hermitages or in other 
places, they are to beware of becoming owners of any property 
or of displacing other people. Whoever comes to them, whether 
friend or foe, thief or bandit, is to be given a kindly welcome. 
And wherever the brethren find themselves, they are to be 
careful to honour and respect one another devoutly and without 
complaint. Let the friars beware of appearing sad and gloomy, 
like hypocrites; let them show themselves gay and happy, and 
be pleasant to all. 

8 

That the friars may not accept money. 

OUR Lord teaches in the Gospel, Look well and keep yourselves 
clear of all malice and covetousness; and keep yourselves unentangled 
in worldly business and the cares of this life. Therefore no friar, 
wherever he may be or go, shall ever take, accept, or cause to 
be accepted any money or coin, whether for the purchase of 
clothes or books or as payment for any work. He may only 
accept it in the case of obvious necessity on behalf of sick 
brethren, because we may not regard money as any more 
valuable than pebbles: the devil wishes to blind those who value 
it any higher. We who have renounced everything must beware 
of losing the Kingdom for so trifling a thing. And should we 

211 



happen to find money anywhere, we should esteem it no more 
than the dust that we trample underfoot, for it is a shadow 9 s 
shadow; a world of shadows. Should any friar happen to pick up 
or keep money which heaven forbid excepting only for the 
needs of the sick as I have mentioned, all the brethren shall 
regard him as a false brother, a thief, a robber, and a receiver 
unless he sincerely repents. And on no account are friars to 
accept money as alms, to organize collections, or to accept 
money collected by others, either for a friary or any other 
building; nor are they to accompany anyone who is collecting 
money for such places. But with God's blessing the brethren 
may undertake all kinds of work that are not contrary to our 
Rule, In the case of absolute necessity, they may, however, ask 
alms for the support of lepers. But they must always have a 
great fear of money, and they must not travel around the 
countryside for the sake of base gain. 



On asking for alms. 

ALL friars are to set themselves to imitate the humility and 
poverty of our Lord Jesus Christ, and must remember that, in 
the words of the Apostle, we are to possess nothing in the whole 
world except food and clothing, and to be content with these. 
Let them be happy to associate with humble and insignificant 
people, the poor and the weak, the sick, the lepers, and the 
beggars on the roads. And whenever necessary, let them ask for 
alms. They are not to be ashamed, but remember that our Lord 
Jesus Christ, the Son of the living and Almighty God, set His 
face like a flint and was not ashamed, for both Christ Himself, 
the blessed Virgin, and His disciples were poor and strangers, 
and lived on alms. Whenever people abuse the friars and refuse 
to give them alms, let them thank God, for at the judgement 
seat of our Lord Jesus Christ they will receive honours in return 

212 



for their humiliations. Let them realize that these humiliations 
will not be blamed on those who suffer them, but on those who 
inflict them. Moreover, alms are a heritage and right due to the 
poor, a right won for us by our Lord Jesus Christ. Brethren who 
obtain alms by their labour shall receive a great reward, and 
shall win blessings for those who give them; for the goods that 
men leave behind them in this world will perish, but the charity 
and alms that they have given will earn a reward from the Lord. 
Each friar is to make his wants known to his brother, so that 
he can obtain his needs. Let each cherish his brother as a mother 
loves and cherishes her child, for God will grant him grace to 
do this. And let not one man, over his meat, mock at him who does 
not eat it, or the other, while he abstains, pass judgement on him who 
eats it. And when necessary, all brethren everywhere are per- 
mitted to eat any kind of food that others eat, as our Lord said 
of David, who ate the loaves set forth there before God, which only 
the priests may eat. They are to remember Christ's words, Look 
well to yourselves; do not let your hearts grow dull with revelry and 
drunkenness and the affairs of this life, so that that day overtakes you 
unawares; it will come like the springing of a trap on all those who 
dwell upon the face of the earth. And in times of obvious need all 
the brethren are to satisfy their wants in whatever way the Lord 
shall direct them, for necessity knows no law. 



10 

On sick friars. 

WHEN any brother falls sick, the others are not to leave him, 
wherever he may be, unless one or more of them have been 
appointed to look after him as they would wish to be cared for 
themselves. In an emergency they may entrust him to another 
person to look after him in his illness. And I ask any friar who 
is ill to give thanks to the Creator for all things; whether in 

213 



sickness or in health he must learn to conform his own will to 
the will of God, for He moulds and trains all whom He has 
chosen for eternal life by the scourges of chastisement and sick- 
ness and by the grace of contrition, and has said, It is those I love 
that I correct and chasten. But if the sick brother is ill-tempered 
and complains against God and his brethren, or if he persistently 
demands medicines in his anxiety to restore his body which is 
soon to perish and is an enemy of the soul he shows himself 
to be prompted by the flesh and the devil and unworthy to be 
one of the brethren because he loves his body better than his 
soul. 



11 

That friars are not to swear or slander, but must love one another. 

ALL friars are to be careful not to slander anyone or enter into 
quarrels; it is better for them to keep silence whenever God 
gives them grace to do so. They are not to dispute among 
themselves, but school themselves to reply humbly, We are 
servants, and worthless. And they are not to be angry, for any 
man who is angry with his brother must answer for it before the court 
of justice, and any man who says Raca to his brother must answer for 
it before the Council; and any man who says to his brother, Thou fool, 
must answer for it in hell fire. Therefore let the brethren love one 
another, for our Lord says, This is My command, that you should 
love one another, as I have loved you. They must show the love 
that they should feel in action, as the Apostle says, Let us show 
our love by the true test of action, not by taking phrases on our lips. 
They are not to speak evil of others, to grumble, or to disparage 
others, for the Scriptures say, Slanderers and detractors are enemies 
of God. But then be modest and gentle to all men. They are 
not to judge or condemn others, because God bids us not to 
consider the sins of others, but in bitterness of soul to recall our 
own. They are to fight their way in at the narrow door, for the 

914. 



Lord says, How small is the gate, how narrow the road, that leads 
on to life, and how few there are that find it. 



12 

On immodest looks, and on avoiding the company of women. 

WHEREVER they are, all friars are to avoid immodest looks and 
the company of women, and no brother is to converse with 
them alone. Priests may fittingly speak to them when giving 
penance or advice of any kind. And no friar shall be allowed to 
accept a vow of obedience from any woman, but once she has 
received spiritual counsel, the woman is to perform her penance 
wherever she desires. We must all keep watch over ourselves 
and maintain all our powers in purity, for the Lord says, He who 
casts his eyes on a woman so as to lust after her has already committed 
adultery with her in his heart. 

13 

On the punishment for fornication. 

IF any friar is instigated by the devil to commit fornication, he 
shall be stripped of the habit of the Order, which he has forfeited 
by his scandalous conduct. He is to be deprived of all privileges 
and expelled from our Order. Afterwards, he is to do penance 
for his sins. 

14 

How friars are to travel about the world. 

WHEN friars travel about the world they are to take nothing for 
their journey, neither purse nor wallet, nor bread, nor money, nor 
a staff. And whenever they enter a house, they shall first say, 

215 



'Peace be to this house.' And they are to remain in that house, 
eating and drinking what they have to give them. They are not to 
offer resistance to injury, but if anyone strikes them on one 
cheek, let them turn the other as well. If anyone takes away 
their habit, let them have their cloak as well. Let them give to 
everyone who asks, and if anyone takes away anything that is 
theirs, they must not try to recover it. 

15 

That friars may not own or ride beasts. 

I FORBID all my friars, whether clergy or lay, whether they travel 
about or remain in their houses, to own any beast, or to have 
the use of other people's animals. They are not allowed to ride 

except in the case of infirmity or great necessity. 



16 

On friars who go among Saracens or other unbelievers. 

OUR Lord says, Remember, I am sending you out to be like sheep 
among wolves; you must be wary, then, as serpents and yet innocent 
as doves. So those friars whom God inspires to go among the 
Saracens and other unbelievers may do so with the approval of 
their Minister and servant. The Minister is to grant permission 
and not oppose them, provided that he considers them suitable 
men to send, for if he acts unwisely in this or other matters he 
will have to give account to God. There are two ways in which 
the friars who go out can act with spiritual effect. The first is 
not to dispute or be contentious, but_/or love of the Lord to bow 
to every kind of human authority , and to acknowledge themselves 
Christians. The other way, whenever they think it to be God's 
will, is to proclaim the word of God and their faith in God 
Almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Creator of 

216 



all things, showing that the Son is our Redeemer and Saviour, 
and teaching men that they must be baptized and become 
Christians, for no man can enter into the Kingdom of God unless 
birth comes to him from water, and from the Holy Spirit. 

These truths and others acceptable to the Lord they must 
teach to others, for our Lord says in the Gospel, Whoever 
acknowledges Me before men, I too will acknowledge him before My 
Father Who is in heaven, and, Whoever disowns Me and My words, 
the Son of Man will disoivn when He comes in the glory of the Father 
and of the holy angels. 

All friars everywhere are to remember that they have given 
and surrendered themselves soul and body to our Lord Jesus 
Christ, and for love of Him they must expose themselves to all 
enemies, both visible and invisible; for our Lord says, The man 
ivho loses his life for My sake shall save it in life everlasting. Blessed 
are those who suffer persecution in the cause of right; the Kingdom of 
Heaven is theirs. They will persecute you just as they have persecuted 
Me. If they persecute you in one city, take refuge in another. Blessed 
are you when men hate and revile you, and when they cast you off and 
censure you, and reject your name as something evil, and speak all 
manner of evil against you falsely because of Me. When that day 
comes, rejoice and exult over it, for a rich reward awaits you in heaven. 
I tell you, My friends, there is no need to fear those who kill the body, 
but have no means of killing the soul. See to it that you are not 
disturbed in mind. It is by endurance that you will secure possession 
of your souls. The man will be saved who endures to the last. 

17 

On preachers. 

No friar is to preach contrary to the teachings and practices of 
the holy Roman Church, and none is to preach without the 
approval of his Minister. The Minister is to be careful not to 
grant permission to any friar without due thought. But let every 

217 



friar make his own life a sermon to others. No Minister or 
preacher is to take upon himself the administration of the 
brethren or the office of preaching, and whenever he is called 
upon to do so, he must surrender his office without argument. 
In love which is God I beg all my brethren, whether preaching, 
praying or labouring, clergy and laymen alike, to do their 
utmost to be humble in all things. They are not to boast or 
flatter themselves, to take secret pleasure in their good words 
or deeds, or in any kind of good that God may speak or effect 
through them at any time. For our Lord says, It is not for you to 
rejoice that the devils are made subject to you. 

Let us be sure that nothing is ours but our own faults and sins. 
Indeed, we should be glad when we are exposed to various 
temptations and undergo all kinds of hardship and trouble in 
soul or body in this world so that we may win eternal life. So 
let all the brethren beware of pride and vainglory. We must 
guard ourselves against the wisdom of the world and the 
prudence of the flesh, for these take a great delight in words but 
very little in deeds; the worldly man has no desire for true 
religion and inward holiness of soul, but wants his religion and 
piety to be seen by men. It is of such people that our Lord says, 
Believe Me, they have their reivard already. But the spirit that 
belongs to God wishes the body to be mortified and despised, 
reviled and humiliated, and cultivates humility and patience, 
pure simplicity, and true peace of soul. Above all it desires the 
fear of the Lord, wisdom from above, and the divine love of 
the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. 

We must ascribe all good to the Lord God, most high and 
supreme, and acknowledge that all good proceeds from Him. 
Let us thank Him, the Author of all good things, for He is 
supreme and sublime, the only true God, Who alone may 
receive and accept all honour and reverence, all praise and 
blessing, all thanks and all glory. He alone is good, and from 
all good things do come. And whenever we see or hear evil 
said or done, or if we hear God blasphemed, let us bless Him, 

218 



do good, and praise the Lord Who is blessed for evermore. 
Amen. 



18 

How Ministers are to hold meetings. 

EACH year on. the feast of Saint Michael the Archangel all 
Ministers are to assemble with their colleagues at whatever place 
they choose in order to confer together on the things of God. 
Once every three years, unless the Minister-General of the whole 
Order decides otherwise, all Ministers are to attend a Chapter 
at the Church of S. Mary of the Porziuncula. Those Ministers 
who live overseas or beyond the Alps are to attend every third 
year, and the remainder of the Ministers every year. 



19 

That the friars are to live as Catholics. 

ALL friars shall be Catholics, and shall live and speak as Catholics. 
If any errs from the Catholic Faith and life by his words or 
actions, and refuses to amend his ways, he is to be expelled from 
our fraternity. In matters relating to the salvation of the soul 
and in all that is not contrary to our religion, we should regard 
all clergy and religious as our masters, and respect their order, 
their office, and their authority. 



20 

On the friars confessions, and the reception of Holy Communion. 

MY blessed brethren, clergy and lay alike, shall confess their sins 
to priests of our own Order. If this is impossible, they may 

219 



confess to other discreet Catholic priests, in the sure knowledge 
and understanding that, provided that they humbly and faith- 
fully perform the penance imposed on them, they are un- 
doubtedly absolved from their sins irrespective of whatever 
priests give them penance and absolution. But if a priest is not 
to be found, they are to confess to one another, as the Apostle 
James prescribes: Confess your sins to one another. But if they 
do this, they must not omit to visit a priest afterwards, for 
priests alone have authority to bind and to loose. 

When contrite and shriven, let the brethren receive the Body 
and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ with great humility and 
reverence, mindful that our Lord said, The man who eats My 
flesh and drinks My Blood enjoys eternal life, and, Do this for a 
commemoration of Me. 



21 

The call to praise and penance that friars may deliver. 

WITH the blessing of God all my friars may deliver this exhorta- 
tion and call to praise before any assembly whenever they so 
desire: 'Fear and honour, praise and bless, thank and adore the 
Lord God Almighty, in Trinity and Unity, the Father, the Son, 
and the Holy Spirit, Creator of all things. Do penance, and 
produce worth-while results from your repentance, for you 
know that you must soon die. Be generous to others, and they 
will be generous to you. Forgive, and you shall be forgiven. 
If you do not forgive others their offences, the Lord will not 
forgive you your offences. Confess all your sins. Blessed are 
those who die in penitence, for they shall enter the Kingdom of 
Heaven. Woe to those who do not die in penitence, for they 
shall become the children of the devil who do his bidding and 
will go into eternal fire. Be prepared, guard yourselves from 
evil, and persevere in good to the end. 



220 



22 

An exhortation to friars. 

MY brothers, let us all obey the words of our Lord, Love your 
enemies, and do good to those who hate you. For our Lord Jesus 
Christ, in Whose footsteps we must follow, addressed His 
betrayer as a friend, and voluntarily surrendered Himself to 
those who crucified Him. Our friends, therefore, are all who 
unjustly inflict upon us trouble and distress, shame and injury, 
grief and pain, martyrdom and death, and we should feel great 
love for such people, because it is through these things that we 
win eternal life. And we should hate our own body with its 
vices and sins, because carnal living causes us to lose the love 
of our Lord Jesus Christ and eternal life and to be lost in hell; 
for our sins render us abhorrent, wretched and hardened against 
good, and eager and ready for evil. For our Lord says in the 
Gospel, It is from mans heart that his wicked designs come, his sins 
of adultery, fornication, murder, robbery, greed, wickedness, deceit, 
lust, hatred, slander, blasphemy, pride, and folly. All these evils issue 
from the heart, and it is these that make a man unclean. 

But since we have renounced the world, our sole duty is to 
obey the will of our Lord and to please Him. We must beware 
of becoming like the stony or thorn-choked soil by the roadside 
spoken of by our Lord, Who said, The seed is the word of God. 
That which fell by the roadside and was trampled upon represents 
those who hear the word of God and do not grasp it; and at once the 
evil one comes and carries off what was sown in their hearts, and takes 
away the word from their hearts lest they should believe and be saved. 
Those who took in the seed in rocky ground are those who hear the 
word and at once entertain it gladly; there is no root in them, and they 
do not last long^for no sooner does tribulation or persecution arise over 
the word than their faith is shaken. And those who took in the seed 
in the midst of briers are those who hear the word of God, but allow 
the cares of this world and the false charms of riches and other desires 

221 



to enter and stifle the word, so that it remains fruitless. Whereas those 
who took in the seed in good soil are those who hear God's word, 
grasp and follow it with a good and sincere heart, and bear fruit with 
patience. 

My brothers, this is why we must do as our Lord says, and 
leave the dead to bury their dead. We must beware of the malice 
and cunning of Satan, who does not want any man to turn his 
heart and mind toward the Lord God. He roams around hoping 
to capture a man's heart by offering some illusory advantage or 
help, and thus to stifle God's word. He tries to obliterate the 
teachings and precepts of our Lord from his mind, to blind him 
with worldly business and anxieties, and to make his dwelling 
in him. For our Lord tells us, The unclean spirit, which has 
possessed a man and then goes out of him, walks about the desert 
looking for a resting-place, and finds none; and it says, I will go hack 
to my own dwelling, from which I came out. And it comes hack, to 
find that dwelling empty, and swept out, and in order. Thereupon it 
goes away, and brings in seven other spirits more wicked than itself 
to bear it company, and together they enter in and settle down there; 
so that the last state of that man is worse than the first. 

So we must all be on our guard, my brothers, lest the illusion 
of gain, success or help should cause us to love other things and 
turn our minds and hearts away from God. But in the name of 
holy love, which is God, I beg all my friars, Ministers as well as 
others, to thrust every difficulty, care, and anxiety behind them, 
and to serve, love, worship, and honour the Lord God with all 
their strength, with a pure heart and mind, for this is what He 
desires above all things. We should at all times make a dwelling 
pkce within our hearts for Him Who is Lord God Almighty, 
the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Who has said, Keep 
watch, then, praying at all times, so that you may be found worthy 
to come safe through all that lies before you, and stand erect in the 
presence of the Son of Man. And when you pray, say, Our Father, 
Who art in heaven. Let us worship Him with a pure heart, 
because we ought to pray continually, and never be discouraged, for 

222 



such men as these the Father claims for His worshippers. God is a 
spirit, and those who worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in 
truth. Let us turn to Him Who is our Shepherd and keeps watch 
over our souls, Who says, I am the good Shepherd. I feed My sheep, 
and I lay down My life for My sheep. All of you are brothers. 
Call no man on earth your father; you have hut one Father, and He 
is in heaven. And do not he called teachers, for Christ is your only 
Teacher, and He is in heaven. As long as you live on in Me, and 
My words live on in you, you will be able to make what request you 
will, and have it granted. Wherever two or three are gathered together 
in My Name, I am there in the midst of them. Now I am with you 
always until the consummation of the world. The words I have been 
speaking to you are spirit and life. I am the Way; I am Truth and 
Life. 

Let us hold firmly to the words, the life, the teaching, and the 
holy Gospel of Christ, Who deigned to pray for us to His 
Father and reveal His Name to us, saying, Father* I have made 
Thy Name known to the men whom Thou hast entrusted to Me, and 
they, receiving it, recognized it for truth that I came from Thee, and 
found faith to believe that it was Thou Who didst send Me. It is for 
these I pray; lam not praying for the world, but for those whom Thou 
hast entrusted to Me; they belong to Thee, as all that I have is Thine, 
and all that Thou hast is Mine. Holy Father, keep them true to Thy 
name, Thy gift to Me, that they may be one, as we are one. While 
I am still in the world I am telling them this, so that My joy may be 
theirs. I have given them Thy message, and the world has nothing 
but hatred for them because they do not belong to the world, as I, too, 
do not belong to the world. I am not asking that Thou shouldst take 
them out of the world, that Thou shouldst keep them clear of what is 
evil Keep them holy, then, through the truth; it is Thy word that is 
truth. Thou hast sent Me into the world on Thy errand, and I have sent 
them into the world on My errand. And I dedicate Myself for their 
sakes, that they too may be dedicated through the truth. It is not only 
for them that I pray; I pray for those who are to find faith in Me 
through their word; that they may all be one... so that the world 

223 



may come to believe that it is Thou Who hast sent Me, and Thou hast 
bestowed Thy love upon them, as Thou hast bestowed it upon Me. 
This, Father, is My desire, that all those whom Thou hast entrusted to 
Me may be with Me where I am, so as to see Thy glory in Thy 
kingdom. 

23 
Prayer, praise, and thanksgiving. 

ALMIGHTY God, most high, most holy and supreme, just and 
holy Father, Lord and King of heaven and earth, we thank Thee 
for Thyself, for through Thy holy will and Thine only Son and 
the Holy Spirit Thou hast made all things, both spiritual and 
material, and having created us in Thine image and likeness, 
Thou didst pkce us in paradise, whence by our own fault we 
have fallen. 

We thank Thee that, having made us through Thy Son, Thy 
true and holy love for us caused Him to be born of the glorious 
and blessed ever-virgin Mary as true God and true man, and 
that Thou hast willed that we should be redeemed from our 
bondage by His Cross, and Blood, and Death. 

We thank Thee that Thy Son Himself will return in the glory 
of His majesty to sentence the wicked, who refuse to repent and 
have not acknowledged Thee, to everlasting fire, and to say to 
all who have acknowledged, adored, and served Thee in peni- 
tence, Come, you that have received a blessing from My Father; take 
possession of the kingdom which has been prepared for you since the 
foundation of the world. 

And because we are all miserable sinners, unworthy to utter 
Thy Name, we humbly implore Thee that Thy beloved Son 
our Lord Jesus Christ, in Whom Thou art well pleased, together 
with the Holy Paraclete, may offer thanks to Thee for all things 
in accordance with Thy and Their good pleasure. For He is 
ever pleasing to Thee in all things, and through Him Thou hast 
done marvellous things for us. Alleluia. 

224 



And for love of Thee we humbly implore the glorious Mother 
Mary, ever-virgin, blessed Michael, Gabriel, Raphael, and all 
the choirs of blessed spirits, Seraphim, Cherubim, Thrones, 
Dominations, Principalities and Powers, Virtues, Angels and 
Archangels, blessed John the Baptist, Peter, Paul, the blessed 
Patriarchs, Innocents, Apostles, Evangelists, Disciples, Martyrs, 
Confessors, Virgins, blessed Elias and Enoch, and all Saints past, 
present, and to come, to offer our thanks for all these blessings 
to Thee, the one true God, living and eternal, and to Thy 
beloved Son our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the Holy Spirit the 
Paraclete, for ever and ever. Amen. Alleluia. 

And to all who desire to serve God in the holy, catholic and 
apostolic Church, all clergy, priests, deacons and subdeacons, 
acolytes, exorcists, readers, door-keepers, clerks, all monks and 
nuns, young people a#d children, poor and needy, kings and 
princes, labourers, farmers, servants and masters, married and 
single, laymen and laywomen, babies, boys and girls, youths and 
maidens, young men and old, healthy and sick, great and small, 
and to all peoples, races, tribes and languages, all nations, and 
all throughout the world, both now and in time to come: 
We, all Friar Minors, unprofitable servants, humbly address and 
appeal to all of you to pray for grace, that we may all persevere 
in the true Faith and in penitence, for without this none can be 
saved. 

Let us all love the Lord God with all our heart, with all our 
soul, with all our mind, and with all our strength; with all our 
understanding and all our powers, with all our effort, with all 
our feelings and affections, with all our desire and will. For it is 
He Who gives us our soul, our life, and all things; Who has 
created and redeemed us, and has saved us solely through His 
mercy; Who has given and ever gives all good things to us 
wretched and miserable sinners, corrupt, foul, ungrateful and 
evil as we are. 

Let us therefore desire nothing, wish for nothing, take pleasure 
and delight in nothing except our Creator, Redeemer, and 

225 



Saviour, the one true God, Wlio is the plenitude of goodness, all 
good, complete good, the true and supreme good. For He alone 
is holy, just, true, and righteous; He alone is beneficent, innocent, 
pure, and from Him, through Him, and in Him is all pardon, 
all grace, all glory for the penitent and the righteous, as for all 
the blessed saints who rejoice together in heaven. 

Let nothing hinder us, nothing separate us, nothing disturb 
us. Let us all, everywhere and always, daily and constantly 
believe in Him sincerely and humbly* Let us enshrine the most 
high, supreme, eternal God in our hearts; let us honour, adore, 
praise and bless, glorify and exalt, magnify and thank Him Who 
is Trinity in Unity, die Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, 
Creator of all things, and the Saviour of all who love, hope, and 
trust in Him. He is without beginning and without end, 
immutable, invisible, unutterable, ineffable, incomprehensible, 
unfathomable. He is worthy of all blessing, praise and glory, 
exalted, sublime, sweet, lovable, full of delight, and to be desired 
above all things for ever and ever. 

In the Name of the Lord I beg all friars to learn the text and 
meaning of all that is written in this Rule of life for the salvation 
of our souls, and to meditate upon it frequently. And I pray God 
Almighty, Trinity in Unity, to bless all who teach it, learn it, 
observe it, remember it, and practise it, whenever they recite it 
and carry out all that is written here for our salvation. And I 
beg them all, kissing their feet, to love, observe and uphold the 
Rule. And in the name of Almighty God, of the Lord Pope, and 
of obedience, I, Brother Francis, strictly enjoin and require that 
nothing be removed from or added to this Rule of life, and that 
the friars observe no other. 

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy 

Spirit. As it was in the beginning is now, and ever shall 

be, world without end. Amen. 



226 



THE SECOND RULE OF THE FRIARS MINOR 

The latter years of Saint Francis's life were burdened by a variety 
of illnesses, which sapped his strength and reduced his activity. As a 
result he tended increasingly to stand aside from the controversies 
within the Order, and to withdraw to the more secluded houses for 
prayer and contemplation. After the brief Generalship of Peter 
Catanii, control and direction of affairs passed into the capable but 
worldly hands of Brother Elias and Cardinal Ugolino, who, contrary 
to Saint Francis's expressed wishes, obtained various privileges for the 
Order from the Pope. 

Despite the concessions granted in the Rule of 1221, a new Rule 
was called for to meet the conditions and demands prevailing in the 
Order, and Saint Francis was asked to compile it. During his stay 
at Fonte Colombo for this purpose, Brother Elias and his supporters 
called on the Saint and protested that they refused to be bound by a 
strict Rule, and when the Rule was produced, these Ministers con- 
veniently 'lost* it, so that Saint Francis was compelled to dictate 
another. He took this last Rule to Rome in order to obtain papal 
approval, and having prevailed on Saint Francis to modify his insistence 
on absolute poverty still further, Honorius confirmed the Rule tuith a 
Bull dated November 25, 1223. So at last the Franciscan Rule received 
the formal approval of the Church, but while it retained much of the 
Saint's original purposes, it was considerably modified and amended. 
Saint Francis was deeply distressed to find so few of his brethren 
prepared to follow him in his devotion to poverty, simplicity, and 'the 
perfect following of the Gospel, 9 and the Church itself unwilling to 
admit the practical possibility of such an ideal. 



227 



IN THE NAME OF THE LORD. HERE BEGINS THE 
WAY OF LIFE OF THE FRIARS MINOR 



THE Rule and way of life of the Friars Minor is this: to observe 
the holy Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ by living under 
obedience, without possessions, and in chastity. Brother Francis 
promises obedience and reverence to the Lord Pope Honorius 
and his successors canonically elected, and to the Roman Church. 
And the other friars shall be bound to obey Brother Francis and 
his successors. 



On those who wish to adopt this life, and how they are to be received. 

WHENEVER any man wishes to embrace this life and approaches 
friars on the matter, they are to direct him to their Provincial 
Ministers, who are the only brethren with authority to admit 
friars. The Minister shall carefully examine him on the Catholic 
Faith and the Sacraments of the Church. If he believes all these 
things and is prepared to profess and observe them faithfully to 
the end; and if he is not married, or if married, his wife has 
already entered a convent, or if both parties have agreed to take 
a vow of continence, and received the approval of the diocesan 
bishop; or if his wife is of such an age that no cause for scandal 
can arise; then the Minister may address him in the words of 
the Holy Gospel, and tell him to go and sell all his possessions 
and give to the poor. But should circumstances make this 
impossible for him, his goodwill shall suffice. Both the friars 
and their Ministers are to avoid interfering in a man's disposal 
of his property, so that he is free to deal with it as the Lord may 
move him. But should he ask for guidance, the Minister may 
send him to some devout person who shall advise him how best 
to dispose of his goods to the benefit of the poor. This done, if 

228 



God guides the Minister to accept him, he may be clothed as 
a postulant; and given two habits without a hood, a cord, and 
utider-garment, and a waist-length cloak. After a year's proba- 
tion, he shall be allowed to take a vow of obedience and promise 
to observe this life and Rule. And in accordance with the 
decree of the Lord Pope, he will on no account be permitted to 
leave this Order, for the holy Gospel says, No man who looks 
behind him, when he has once put his hand to the plough, is fitted for 
the kingdom of God. Those who have taken vows of obedience 
may have a single habit with a hood, and if they need it, another 
habit without a hood. Those who really need them may wear 
sandals. All friars are to wear coarse garments, and with God's 
blessing they may mend them with patches of sacking and such- 
like. But I warn them not to despise or condemn other men 
who wear expensive coloured garments and indulge in choice 
food and drink; let every friar judge and despise himself. 



On the Divine Office, fasting, and the behaviour of friars in the 

world. 

WHEN they possess breviaries, clergy will recite the Divine 
Office according to the use of the holy Roman Church, with 
the exception of the Psalter. Lay-Brothers will say twenty-four 
Our Father's for Matins ; five for Lauds ; seven each for Prime, 
Terce, Sext, and None; twelve for Vespers; seven for Compline; 
and they will pray for the departed. 

The friars are to fast from the Feast of All Saints until Christ- 
mass. The fast, hallowed by our Lord's own fast of forty days, 
which begins at Epiphany is a voluntary observance; God bless 
those who keep it, but none is obliged to keep it against his will. 
But all are to fast during Lent until Easter. The friars are not to 
be obliged to fast at other seasons except on Fridays. In times of 
great need, however, friars shall not be obliged to fast. 

229 



I advise and warn my brothers in the Lord Jesus Christ not to 
take part in quarrels and controversies or to criticize others when 
they go about the world. They should be gentle, peaceable and 
modest, forbearing and humble, speaking honestly to all in a 
fitting manner. They are not to ride on horseback unless obliged 
to do so by weakness or by pressing need. And when they enter 
a house, let them first say, Peace be to this house. And, as the holy 
Gospel allows, friars may eat any food that is set before them. 



4 

That friars may not accept money. 

I STRICTLY forbid all friars to accept money on any account, 
either themselves or through a third person. But with the help 
of spiritual friends the Ministers and Guardians shall take care 
to provide for the needs of the sick and the clothing of the other 
friars in a manner suited to the locality, the season of the year 
and the coldness of the country, always provided that they do 
not receive money. 



On the work of the friars. 

THOSE friars to whom God has given the grace to labour are to 
do so honestly and devoutly so as to avoid idleness, the enemy 
of the soul, while not quenching the spirit of prayer and devo- 
tion, which must come before all worldly things. In payment 
for their work they may accept bodily necessities for themselves 
and their brethren, but not money, and they are to accept what 
is given them humbly as befits servants of God and observers of 
most holy poverty. 

230 



That friars are to have no possessions; on alms; on the care of the sick. 

FRIARS are not to acquire any possessions, whether houses, land, 
or anything whatsoever. They must serve the Lord in humility 
and poverty, living as strangers and exiles in this life. They are to 
ask alms with confidence, nor need they be ashamed to do so, for 
our Lord made Himself poor in this world for our sakes. Herein 
lies the dignity of most noble poverty, which has made you, 
dearest brothers, heirs and kings of the kingdom of heaven, poor 
in worldly goods but enriched in virtue. Let poverty be your 
inheritance, and lead you into the land of the living. Dearest 
brothers, be completely loyal to poverty, and in the Name of 
our Lord Jesus Christ have no wish to possess anything under 
heaven but Him. 

When friars happen to meet, they are to show brotherly 
kindness to one another. Let each have no hesitation in telling 
the other if he is in need, for if a mother cherishes her own 
child, how much more should a friar love and cherish one who 
is his own spiritual brother? And if any friar falls sick, the others 
are to look after him as they would wish to be cared for them- 
selves. 



On the penances to be imposed for wrongdoing. 

IF any friar succumbs to the promptings of the devil and commits 
mortal sin, and his brethren consider that the matter can only 
be dealt with by the Provincial Ministers, the offending friar 
shall be obliged to present himself before them as soon as 
possible and without delay. If the Provincial Ministers are 
themselves priests, they are to impose penance on him with 
mercy; but if they are not priests, penance is to be imposed by 
other priests of the Order as the Lord guides them. But let them 

231 



beware of being angered and disquieted by the wrongdoing of 
any friars, for anger and disquiet banishes charity both in oneself 
and in others. 

8 

On the election of the Minister-General of this Fraternity, and the 
Whitsun Chapter. 

ALL friars are to acknowledge one of the brethren of this Order 
as Minister-General and servant of the whole Fraternity, and 
must yield him absolute obedience. At his death the election of 
his successor shall be effected by the Ministers Provincial and 
the Guardians at the Whitsun Chapter, when the Ministers 
Provincial shall be obliged to attend at whatever place the late 
Minister-General had appointed. This Chapter shall take place 
at least every three years unless the Minister General shall decide 
otherwise. If at any time a majority of the Ministers Provincial 
and Guardians should consider the Minister-General incapable 
of serving the needs of the brethren, these friars, in whose hands 
the choice rests, shall in God's Name elect another in his place. 

After the Whitsun Chapter all Ministers and Guardians may, 
if they think it desirable, summon a chapter of friars in their own 
custodies once during that year. 



9 

On preachers. 

FRIARS are not to preach in the diocese of any bishop who has 
refused his consent. And no friar shall presume to preach to 
people unless he has been examined and approved by the 
Minister-General of this Fraternity and received permission to 
exercise the office of preacher, I warn and remind friars that 
whenever they preach their words are to be well chosen and 

232 



pure, so as to help and edify die people, and to define virtues and 
vices, punishment and glory. And let them be brief, for the 
Lord Himself while on earth was brief. 



10 

On the reproof and correction of the friars. 

THOSE who are the Ministers and servants of the other friars 
shall visit and advise their own brethren. They are to correct 
them humbly and with love, and must never order them to act 
contrary to their own conscience or to our Rule. Brethren who 
are under obedience should remember that they have surren- 
dered their own wills for God's sake. And I strictly charge them 
to obey their Ministers in all matters that they have promised 
to observe, and that are not opposed to their consciences or to 
the Rule. Should friars ever find themselves unable to observe 
the Rule properly, they may and should seek the advice of their 
Ministers. And the Ministers are to receive them lovingly and 
kindly, and show them such friendship that the friars feel free 
to speak and behave with them as masters with their servants. 
For this should be the right relationship, since the Ministers are 
the servants of all the friars. 

I warn the friars and beg them in the Name of our Lord Jesus 
Christ to beware of all pride, boasting, jealousy, and avarice, of 
the cares and preoccupations of this world, and detraction and 
complaint against others. Those who do not know how to read 
need not rush off to learn; instead, let them remember that their 
chief desire should be to possess the spirit of the Lord and His 
holy grace, to pray to Him at all times with a pure heart, to 
remain humble and patient in persecution and hardship, and to 
love those who persecute, accuse, and blame us. For our Lord 
says, Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute and insult 
you. Blessed are they who suffer persecution in the cause of right; 

233 



the kingdom of heaven is theirs. And, That man will be saved who 
endures to the last. 



11 

That friars shall not enter convents of nuns. 

I STRICTLY forbid all friars to have any dealings or conversations 
with women such as could give rise to gossip. And none but 
those who have received special permission are to enter convents 
of nuns. Friars are not permitted to be godfathers of men or 
women, in order to avoid any scandal arising among the friars 
or about the friars. 



12 

On those who go among the Saracens and other unbelievers. 

ANY friars who feel called by God to go among the Saracens or 
other unbelievers are to ask permission from their Provincial 
Minister. The Provincial Ministers shall only grant permission 
to those who are clearly suitable to be sent. 

I also require the Ministers under obedience to request the 
Lord Pope to appoint one of the Cardinals of the holy Roman 
Church to be governor, protector, and corrector of this frater- 
nity. In this way we shall be under discipline and subject at the 
feet of the same holy Church and firm in the Catholic Faith, 
and shall observe poverty, humility, and the holy Gospel of our 
Lord Jesus Christ as we have solemnly vowed. 



234 



(Continued from front flap) 

panion volume ,to The Little Flowers 
of St. Francis and is the only other 
contemporary account of his life. 

Besides the attractive biography, 
Leo Sherley-Price has' gathered to- 
gether and translated all the authentic 
writings ot St. Francis. Here are his im- 
mortal prayers and praises, wise coun- 
sels on religious life, personal letters, 
testament, and the rules of the Fran- 
ciscan Order. The translator combines 
a scholar's knowledge of 12th century 
Italian with the ability to express him- 
self in clear, contemporary idiom. 
This excellent presentation strips the 
frills of Edwardian expression from 
the saint and his writings, giving us 
a strong and virile version for today. 

"Charming is too overworked a 
word for this book although of course 
one cannot help it when one considers 
St. Francis. It is strong and stern and 
holy. It blows away from him those 
mists of pretty piety which usually 
emvreath him and shows him as 
rugged and struggling and rigorous as 
his own landscape. I shall value my 
copy and reread it often." 

PHYLLIS MCGINLEY 

The translator: Leo Sherley-Price is 
an English priest who has translated 
The Little Flowers of St. Francis and 
The Imitation of Christ. 



No. 9636A 



130790